Mali man dies after French police use Taser

Taser stun gun (file image)
Image caption The use of Tasers has caused controversy, but police forces say they are a valuable tool

An immigrant from Mali has died after French police shot him twice with a Taser electric stun gun during a fracas, officials say.

Police said the 38-year-old man had attacked officers with a hammer at a Paris apartment block after being asked for identity papers.

He was also tear-gassed and struck with a baton, an official added.

French prosecutors have ordered an inquiry to determine the exact cause of death.

However, correspondents say the death will revive controversy over the use of Tasers, which fire darts carrying a 50,000 volt shock.

The incident happened in the early hours of Tuesday when police were called to an argument at an apartment in the Paris suburb of Colombes involving the Malian, who was allegedly staying illegally in France.

When officers tried to check the man's identity papers he "flipped out" and grabbed a hammer, injuring four officers who chased him, a police source told the French news agency AFP.

Police, who described the man as overweight, shot him twice with Tasers and used tear gas and a baton to subdue him.

The man was eventually arrested but collapsed as police were bringing him out of the building in a lift, the source said.

Paramedics were unable to revive him.

"From initial reports it seems that, faced with the aggression and violence of this person, police officers were obliged to use an electric charge pistol," Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said.

Call for ban

The BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris says the use of the Taser has been controversial in France and this latest incident will bring further questions about whether it is a safe and proportionate response.

French human rights group Raidh called for an immediate ban on the guns pending the investigation.

It also demanded to know why the suspect had been shot twice.

Antoine di Zazzo, director of SMP Technologies which distributes the Taser in France, told AFP: "Only this man's autopsy will be able to say whether our pistol is responsible for his death."

The use of the stun weapon has caused controversy around the world.

A five-year study in Australia published in October found that police there had used Taser guns against people with mental illness in a disproportionately high number of cases.

In June, a Canadian inquiry ruled that officers were not justified in using a Taser gun five times on a Polish immigrant at Vancouver airport in 2007.

The inquiry found that the shocks and the ensuing struggle with police had "contributed substantially" to the death of Robert Dziekanski.

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