IOWA CITY, Iowa – A judge has condemned an Iowa police chief for using his city-issued stun gun to shock guests at two parties in 2016, calling it an “immoral activity” that could have caused serious injuries or death.
Judge Nancy Whittenburg recently rejected arguments by Craig Merrill, the police chief in Armstrong, that his deployment of the Taser device in an off-duty, social setting against voluntary participants was not a criminal act.
“Merrill did not have justification to use a defensive weapon with the intent to cause pain for entertainment purposes on compliant partygoers,” Whittenburg wrote in a ruling dated May 27.
Noting that the weapon is capable of causing injuries ranging from burning skin to death, she added, “Merrill is exceptionally lucky that no one suffered a medical emergency or died at the party.”
Merrill was charged in February with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon for using the stun gun against Armstrong’s then-maintenance director Tylor Evans and several others who attended parties at Merrill’s home in April and July 2016.
“Defendant Merrill announced that he knew he was ‘not supposed to do this,’ attempted to prevent partygoers from documenting the crime, and told partygoers he would lie to the City Council about whether the TASER darts had been deployed,” prosecutors said in a recent filing.
Prosecutors say Merrill collected $30 from guests to pay for the city to replace the cost of the gun’s cartridge but never deposited the funds.
At a second gathering around July 4, Merrill admitted that he had shocked everyone who attended multiple times using the device's drive-stun function, which delivers electrical shocks as a method of pain compliance, prosecutors allege.