Blake Dwyer, 17, of Shady Shores, had an epileptic seizure while at a friend’s house in Corinth, Texas last July 18. He doesn’t remember it. He doesn’t remember fighting to keep from being tied to a stretcher or hitting a paramedic. What he does remember is: Pain, the agonizing burn of electrical shock, shouting and fear.
“I thought a swarm of wasps was after me,” the 17-year-old Guyer High School athlete said. “I was trying to fight them off.”
What Blake Dwyer does remember is the result of being Tasered 12 times by the Corinth police and he has the burn marks to prove it.
His brother, Travis Baker, 17, remembers all of it. He remembers the epileptic seizure his brother suffered. He remembers paramedics trying to tie his brother to a stretcher. He remembers screaming at Corinth police to stop shocking Blake with a Taser. He remembers crying on the phone, telling his mother, Deana Dwyer, what was happening to his brother.
It all began the previous day when the two brothers spent the night over at a friend’s house. They were getting ready for football practice about 10:30 a.m. the next morning when Travis said he saw Blake bend over to tie his tennis shoes.
“He looked up, and his eyes rolled back in his head,” Travis said. “He fell over and started frothing at the mouth and jerking. I knew he was having a seizure. I was there when he had the others, and I knew what to do.”
Blake Dwyer had been experiencing grand mal epileptic seizures for about a year, possibly brought on, his mother said, by a concussion. Travis said he had learned to calm Blake, who comes out of the seizures with postictal psychosis, a condition that accompanies seizures in some patients to varying degrees. Blake becomes disoriented and frightened, he said. He panics and tries to fight, especially if someone tries to restrain him.
According to information from the Epilepsy Foundation, epilepsy is a neurological condition that sometimes produces brief disturbances in the normal electrical functions of the brain with intermittent bursts of much more intense electrical energy. The resulting seizure may affect a person’s consciousness, movements or sensations for a short time. A person suffering a seizure will fall down, froth at the mouth and jerk uncontrollably.
While Travis was attempting to calm his brother down someone called an ambulance. When the paramedics arrived they took over and told Travis to step back while they attempted to tie Blake down on a stretcher. Travis tried to tell them that his brother was claustrophobic and he couldn’t stand to be strapped down. They ignored him.
According to the paramedic report, Blake was combative. He was making incoherent sounds and fighting against the restraints. He freed his arms and, still strapped to the gurney by the lower part of his body, he began flailing his arms. He struck a firefighter in the face.
A paramedic found a marijuana pipe in Blake’s pocket. This led them to believe that Blake may have been overdosing on narcotics. They called the police for assistance. According to the police report on the incident, Blake was Tasered twice to calm him down.
“[Reporting officer] issued a ‘drive stun’ with the Taser to Dwyer’s upper back to gain compliance so he would stop fighting with the fireman. … Once inside the ambulance Dwyer was once again issued a ‘drive stun’ to gain compliance,” the report states.
However, photographs taken the next day show 24 post burns, representing 12 separate instances of the posts of the Taser being applied to Blake Dwyer’s back and underarm.
Tasers can work in two different ways:
- A Taser has a cartridge that sends two prongs out on wires. When the trigger is pulled, the probes burst out of the cartridge and can travel up to 21 feet to reach the target. Then electricity travels though the wires and arcs between the probes. That affects the sensory nerves, and the electricity overrides the central nervous system, which means the muscles can’t move. The person falls to the ground, briefly immobilized.
- Or, the officer has the option of pulling off the cartridge and simply pressing the Taser against the skin. That causes electrical pain but does not immobilize and is called a “drive stun.” It is a way to control someone using pain. This was the method used on Blake.
The boys admit they smoked marijuana from a pipe provided by one of the other boys but insist they used no other illegal substances. Blake’s blood workup the next morning showed only traces of marijuana in his system. There were no traces of any other opiates or psychedelic drugs.
Deana Dwyer said she was mad at Blake for using marijuana “But smoking marijuana the night before had nothing to do with his seizure. He had them before, and he’s had three since.”
No lawsuit has been filed yet. Deana Dwyer sought the advice of Denton lawyer Rocky Haire, who said he has been trying to work with Corinth police for an out-of-court resolution with no luck so far.
“Deana just wants them to acknowledge they did it wrong,” Haire said. “She tried to tell them their officers needed some training on what to do with epileptic seizures and postictal psychosis, but they just blew her off.”