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Two Years After Stun Gun Death, Mason's Mother Sues

Taylor Dobbs
Macadam Mason's mother, Rhonda Taylor, and her attorney Robert Appel, right, filed a lawsuit related to Mason's death on Wednesday. Allen Gilbert, left, and Taylor's husband Ken accompanied them to the courthouse.

Rhonda Taylor was teaching a class in New Hampshire when her son Macadam Mason was killed by Trooper David Shaffer’s stun gun on June 20th, 2012.

Two years later, she filed a lawsuitWednesday in federal court seeking damages related to the death.

“I don’t understand how it went from calling for help and troopers being sent for a wellness check to him being killed,” Taylor said of her son’s final hours. “I just don’t understand it. He didn’t have a weapon. He’d had a seizure the day before, and I just feel he should have been protected.”

By all accounts, Mason was acting strangely the day of his death. His loved ones say that was normal for him in the days following his seizures.

Shaffer and other troopers confronted Mason at his house along a quiet dirt road in Thetford, and police say he wasn’t following their commands.

A number of troopers on hand had their firearms trained on Mason, but none fired.

"I don't understand how it went from calling for help and troopers being sent for a wellness check to him being killed." - Rhonda Taylor, mother of Macadam Mason

He was ultimately killed when Shaffer lowered the M4 rifle he was aiming at mason, drew his Taser stun gun, and shot its conductive barbs into Mason’s chest.

The lawsuit alleges that “Mason died after he was subjected to unconstitutional seizure due to the use of unreasonable and excessive force.”

Attorney Robert Appel said the necessity of a lawsuit represents a failure for the state.

“I have to say this is a very sad day,” he said, “not only for Rhonda and her family, but in my view for the state of Vermont. This is the only way that the people of the state can hold police accountable, which is what our constitution says.”

The lawsuit comes soon after the legislature passed a bill mandating a statewide policy on the use of stun guns.

Allen Gilbert, the director of the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, was a leading advocate for the bill.

He said that in his view, the new controls aren’t just good for the citizens they protect.

“Police also have an interest in police accountability, because it’s often been said that the best weapon that police have in doing their jobs is public trust,” he said.

Taylor’s lawsuit seeks damages to be paid to Mason’s estate, which would benefit his 9-year-old daughter.

A state investigation ultimately cleared Trooper David Schaffer of any criminal wrongdoing.

Appel says he’s confident this suit will meet the civil court’s lower burden of proof.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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