Catskill, NY — As we reported last year, Jason Jones, according to local media, was a celebrated athlete at Catskill High School more than a decade ago and has apparently been struggling with mental illness recently. Unfortunately, his battle with mental illness ended last October, after he walked into a police station, unarmed, and was set ablaze by a police taser. He was covered in hand sanitizer which ignited from the taser.
Though the incident happened on October 30, video was only just released as part of an investigation by the state attorney general. It shows three officers corner Jones in the lobby of the police department before setting him on fire and running away.
Jones was visibly distraught but he didn’t attack or otherwise attempt to cause harm to the officers. Clearly in a mental crisis, Jones takes off his shirt before removing his socks and shoes. Instead of simply attempting to handcuff him — as he was cornered and surrounded by three cops — officers watched as Jones grabbed the hand sanitizer and rubbed it all over his hair.
As hand sanitizer is mostly flammable alcohol, officers should have known that the taser was no longer an option. Sadly, that did not happen and Jones was set on fire. As he burned, the officers fled the room.
Kevin Luibrand, an attorney for Jones’ estate said that Jones walked into the police station where an “exchange” happened before Jones removed his shirt and was tasered.
“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,” Luibrand told CBS News. “Instead of helping Jason, the police ran out the room, shut the door and let him burn.”
Though the flames only appeared to engulf his upper body, they were enough to lead to his death. After being set ablaze by police, Jones was hospitalized and spent the next 48 days in ICU in Syracuse before dying on December 15.
When the Times Union reached out to the police department after the incident, they spoke with Chief Dave Darling, a former State Police senior investigator, who confirmed that officers deployed a Taser to subdue Jones, who was familiar to them from past encounters, according to the Union.
Darling said they had to taser him or he may have hurt himself. So he was set on fire for his own protection.
“I think they were afraid he was going to hurt himself, and that’s what started it,” Darling said.
CBS News reports that New York Attorney General Letita James confirmed that her office is investigating the incident in accordance with state law, which requires that an investigation be opened into any incident in which law enforcement may have caused the death of a person.
Below is that extremely graphic video. Warning.
Graphic video released by the New York AG’s Office shows the moment 29-year-old Jason Jones burst into flames after police in Catskill, New York used a Taser in October 2021. pic.twitter.com/jsSgcQo5g3
— Law & Crime (@lawcrimenews) January 7, 2022
While this case may seem outlandish, unfortunately, it is not the first time a police officer used a taser to set a mentally ill man on fire. As TFTP reported last year, the family of Gabriel Eduardo Olivas filed a lawsuit against the city of Arlington after two police officers used their tasers on him — while he was soaked in gasoline — and set him on fire, killing him and burning down his family’s home, according to a lawsuit.
Sadly, in February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that Jeremias Guadarrama and Ebony Jefferson, the Arlington police officers who fired Tasers at Olivas, igniting him and burning his house down, are protected under the highly controversial doctrine of qualified immunity.
This qualified immunity was granted in spite of the fact the lawsuit claimed that one of the officers lied about using his taser and blames the Arlington Police Department’s use-of-force policy for Olivas’ death.