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Parents Say Taser Shot Made Son’s Car Explode

Rebekah Kearn
Courthouse News
June 18, 2013

A car exploded and burned a man to death after the Border Patrol Tasered the driver, who had been driving the wrong way down Interstate 8, the man’s parents claim in court.

Karen and Craig Martin sued the United States for the wrongful death of their son, Alex, who was 25 when he burned to death in the early morning of March 15, 2012.

Alex was driving west in Pine Valley, near San Diego, at around midnight when “Doe Defendants in unmarked cars” tried to pull him over, the parents say in the complaint.

The complaint continues: “According to the Border Patrol reports to the media, Alex was driving the wrong way on Interstate 8.

“Upon information and belief, Doe defendants were not equipped with the standard lights and siren in their unmarked cars.

“According to the Border Patrol reports, Alex failed to yield and Doe Defendants gave chase.

“After Alex’s car had driven over spike strips and stopped, Doe Defendant 1 shot Alex with a Taser.

“The Taser caused an explosion and set Alex’s car on fire.”

“Alex Martin burned to death.”

The parents claim the Border Patrol agent fired the Taser into Alex’s car despite the presence of “flammable liquids and fumes,” which were “a result of the spike strip’s effect on the car, including the sudden stopping after the tires blew out.”

“The deployment of the Taser set Alex Martin on fire,” the parents say in the complaint.

“Defendants Does 1 through 40 failed to pull Alex Martin out of the burning car or call the fire department.

“Defendants Does 1 through 40 allowed Alex Martin to burn to death.” [36]

The Martins claim the federal government failed to train the Border Patrol agents on how to use a Taser safely, and how to do a traffic stop without resorting to violence and excessive force.

They claim the government has “a widespread history of ratifying the use of excessive force by failing to conduct appropriate investigations into agent misconduct.”

“As a result of the defendants’ historical failure to properly investigate claims of misconduct, defendants were deliberately indifferent to the needs of plaintiff [Alex Martin]. The failure to investigate was the moving force behind the use of force on the plaintiff and the resulting pain and suffering,” the complaint states.

More than a year has passed since Alex died, the Martins say, but the Office of the Medical Examiner refuses to tell them the manner and cause of his death because “the case has been sealed by the investigators and until the directive is rescinded, the ME may not release any information regarding Alex’s death.”

The Martins seek punitive damages for assault and battery, excessive force and wrongful death, and funeral costs.

They are represented by Eugene G. Iredale with Iredale & Yoo.