Cop Uses Taser to Light Gasoline-Soaked Man on Fire: Lawsuit

Charlie Himmel | Courthouse News Service

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – A Chesterfield County, Va., police officer Tased a young man at the scene of serious car accident, setting his gasoline-soaked clothing ablaze and nearly killing him, a lawsuit filed by the man’s guardian claims.

In a complaint filed in Richmond City Circuit Court, Kim Powell says Miles Zachery-Cole November flipped his 2012 Volkswagen sedan on a local highway in the early morning hours of Feb. 8, 2015, and that officers responding to the scene pulled him from the wreckage.

A short time later, Powell claims, officer Ryan Swope used his Taser on November, setting fire to his gasoline-soaked clothes and body.

Court documents describe a strong smell of gasoline at the scene, and say law enforcement officials were aware of the potential for fire hazard-Swope ignored orders against discharging his weapon.

“As a result of the fire ignited by Swope, November suffered full thickness burns on approximately 86 percent of his body,” the complaint says.

Powell says November spent more than six months in the intensive care burn unit of Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center , where he contracted septic blood poisoning and underwent 35 surgeries including a tracheostomy due to respiratory issues and kidney failure.

“For many months he was completely unable to feed himself, clothe himself, stand up or walk and was even unable, without significant assistance, to sit up in his bed. Even now, a year after Swope’s use of the Taser engulfed him in flames, he has limited use of his arms and legs. Almost his whole body is horribly scarred and disfigured,” the complaint continues.

Powell says November has already needed medical care costing more than $6.5 million and he will require a lifetime of care.

“He will never recover from the scars and impairment to his body and mind,” the Feb. 24 complaint says.

“Swope knew and/or reasonably should have known the use of a Taser to apply a high voltage electrical spark to an accident victim in the vicinity of likely flammable substances involves extreme danger and a high likelihood of causing serious injury or death,” the complaint adds.

Powell is seeking $95 million in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages on claims of gross negligence, battery and breach of assumed duties.

November is represented by the law firms of Marks & Harrison, the Creager Law Firm and Cuthbert Law Offices.

A representative of the Chesterfield County Police Department declined to comment on the pending lawsuit

Published by Courthouse News Service.