Prosecutor: UC police officer 'justified' in using Taser on student who later died

CINCINNATI - A University of Cincinnati police officer who fired his Taser at a teenager who later died, didn't violate any criminal laws, according to a report issued by Hamilton County's Prosecutor.

Joe Deters said that Officer Richard Haas was justified when he used the weapon on Everette Howard, 18, outside Turner Hall on UC's West Campus last Aug. 6. The information was contained in a letter sent Tuesday to UC Police Chief Michael Cureton.

The Howard family's attorney, Al Gerhardstein, said he wasn't going to comment on the finding until he gets more information on how the decision was reached. The Howards don't plan on talking publicly until they speak with him.

The incident happened on Aug. 6, 2011, around 2 a.m. UC Police were called to a report of a fight in progress, but no charges were filed. A short time later, police were called back to the site because the fight reportedly had continued.

Deters said Officer Haas encountered Howard and another individual and ordered them both to stop. Howard's companion complied with the order, but Deters said Howard continued to walk toward the officer and was shot once with the taser.

He said an independent witness confirmed that Howard refused to obey the officer's order.

UC Police immediately called for medical assistance for Howard and he was transported to University Hospital, but later died.

According to Deters, an independent examination of the Taser by the Electronic Test Centre of Ontario, Canada, confirmed that the weapon was operating properly on the night in question.

Just last week, Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco ruled that the case of Howard's death was undetermined -- a finding that bothered the victim's parents, Travonna and Everette Howard.

"She told us that in order for her to prove that the Taser killed our son, he would have had to be hooked up to an EKG machine at the time he was tased, which we know and she know is ridiculous," she said. "It would never happen."

Gerhardstein called the coroner's finding, "terrible, wrong and unacceptable."

"In the morning he's in the college dorm and he's not drinking or using any drugs. He's a very clean and upstanding kid, very healthy kids, athletic kid and the only thing that happened that night was he was tased and then he died," he said.

The Howards now struggle to understand what went on.

"You just really don't know what to say anymore and I'm dumbfounded," Travonna said. "I want answers. We want answers. Our family wants answers. We lost a link in our chain and we want to know why -- and no one could tell us why."

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