Catskill Village police slow to help man after they set him on fire with a Taser
Brendan J. Lyons reports in the Times Union that a video shows Catskill police officers ran and hid instead of helping 29-year-old Jason Jones after they Tasered him and he burst into flames. Jones later died after an extended stay in the burn unit of a Syracuse hospital. The video shows two Catskill police officers running out of their station's lobby after he burst into flames, and another who instead of helping, stood "around the corner of an interior wall rather than rush to the aid of the man who was burning in front of him." Instead of the police helping a man who needed medical attention, a civilian who witnessed the scene through a window can be seen on the video entering the station and trying to console Jones by hugging him. Jones was a well-known athlete at Catskill High a decade ago, and just after midnight on Oct. 31 he walked into the Village of Catskill police station on Main St. and doused himself with hand sanitizer. The video does not show Jones attacking police, but one of the officers fires a Taser at him, and his head catches on fire immediately. Then, just as quick, the three officers disappear from the video. "Jason was unarmed, in the police station, and not threatening anyone when the police hit him with 50,000 volts of electrical current and he ignited," Kevin A. Luibrand, an attorney representing Jones' family, said in response to the release of the video. "Instead of helping Jason, the police ran out the room, shut the door and let him burn." The Times Union quotes an anonymous police official who is not involved in the case said that his officers are trained to never use a Taser on an individual who may have been recently exposed to a flammable liquid, including hand sanitizer, which contains alcohol. He also said officers should have helped the man immediately. "Once the threat has been stopped, you don't just say, 'I'm going to let that person burn,'" the official said. The state attorney general's Office of Special Investigation has taken over the case from Greene County District Attorney Joseph Stanzione because of a 2015 Executive Order empowering the attorney general to investigate fatal encounters between police and unarmed civilians. Jones died last month after spending 48 days on a ventilator in an intensive care unit at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. The investigation is continuing and the attorney general's office said in a statement, "The release of this footage is not an expression of any opinion as to the guilt or innocence of any party in a criminal matter or any opinion as to how or whether any individual may be charged with a crime." Read more about this story in the Times Union.