Family sues over man's stun gun death


Herman Barnes had a history of mental illness. He was killed in 2006. Now attorneys for his family are suing former Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas and several deputies, blaming them for his death.

A family attorney says Harris County Sheriff's deputies entered Barnes' home without reason and used excessive force on him. According to a lawsuit filed in federal court on Barnes' behalf, Barnes suffered several abrasions from his forehead to his face, neck, chest, down to his lower back.

The lawsuit states deputies beat Barnes with a nightstick and shocked him with a Taser more than 30 times. At times he was partially handcuffed, pinned to the ground and "drive stunned"-- blasted directly in the neck. The lawsuit further states, per Harris County records, that Barnes suffered Taser shocks for a total of 123 seconds.

Civil rights attorney for the plaintiff, Anthony Griffin, says Harris County failed to properly train its officers in the use of Tasers and that those officers acted with deliberate indifference, ultimately leading to Barnes' death.

In addition to Thomas, the individual defendants named in the lawsuit are Andy Viruette Jr., Juan Celestial, Nicholas Carter, George W. Ellington, Rex Evans, Kevin Sims, Gregg Board and Andy Hulsey. Officials tell us at least one of the individual defendants is no longer a law enforcement officer.

Harris County was intitially listed as a defendant and subsequently dropped. The suit also names real estate management company Hettig/Kahn Holdings and TASER International, manufacturer of the stun gun used by HCSO, as defendants.

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