HOUSTON (AP) - In a confrontation captured on videotape, a hospital security guard fired a stun gun to stop a defiant father from taking home his newborn, sending both man and child crashing to the floor. Now William Lewis says his baby girl suffers from head trauma because she was dropped.
"I've got to wonder what kind of moron would Tase an adult holding a baby," said George Kirkham, a former police officer and criminologist at Florida State University. "It doesn't take rocket science to realize the baby is going to fall."
Lewis, 30, said the April 13 episode began after he and his wife felt mistreated by staff at the Woman's Hospital of Texas and they decided to leave. Hospital employees told him doctors would not allow it, but Lewis picked up the baby and strode to a bank of elevators.
The elevators would not move because wristband sensors on each baby shut them off if anyone takes an infant without permission.
Lewis, who gave the video to The Associated Press, said his daughter landed on her head, but it cannot be seen on the video. He said the baby continues to suffer ill effects from the fall.
"She shakes a lot and cries a lot," Lewis said, noting doctors have performed several MRIs on the child, Karla. "She's not real responsive. Something is definitely wrong with my daughter."
It was not clear whether the baby received any electrical jolt.
Child Protective Services has custody of the baby because of a history of domestic violence between Lewis and his wife, Jacqueline Gray. Agency spokeswoman Estella Olguin said the infant does not appear to be suffering any health problems from the fall.
David Boling, an off-duty Houston police officer working security at the hospital, and another security guard can be seen on the surveillance video arriving at the elevators and trying to talk with Lewis. Lewis appears agitated as he walks around the elevators holding his daughter in his right arm.
Within 40 seconds of arriving, Boling is holding the Taser. He walks around Lewis and whispers to the other guard, who moves to Lewis' right side.
About a minute later, Boling can be seen casually standing near Lewis, not looking in his direction, when he suddenly raises the Taser and fires it at Lewis, who was still holding his daughter.
Lewis drops to the floor. The other guard, who has not been identified, scoops up the baby and gives her to the child's mother, who was standing nearby in a hospital gown.
The guard then pulls Lewis to his feet with his arms locked behind him. Lewis' T-shirt has two holes under the left side of his chest where the Taser prongs hit him.
Lewis said he did not see the stun gun.
"My wife said 'we want to leave' and then he just Tasered me," Lewis said. "He caused me to drop the child."
In a statement, the hospital said Lewis was hostile and uncooperative toward staff members who were trying to find out his relationship to the infant when they saw him trying to leave. Neither Lewis or Gray had indicated they wanted a discharge, according to the statement.
"Mr. Lewis became verbally abusive by using vulgar expletives. When Mr. Lewis' behavior became threatening, endangering the infant and employees, licensed law enforcement officers followed their professional standards to protect those involved," the statement said.
Lewis was arrested and charged with endangering a child. A grand jury in May declined to indict him on that charge, but charged him with retaliation, accusing him of making threats against Boling.
Lewis also has been charged with a second count of retaliation alleging he made a threatening call to Boling at his home.
Lewis denies both charges. He said he is considering suing the hospital but has not filed any legal papers.
Houston police spokesman Gabe Ortiz said the department did not investigate the officer's role, and he declined to elaborate. Boling did not immediately respond to a request for comment given to the police department.
Some 11,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies use Tasers, which some experts say are increasingly being used as a convenient labor-saving device to control uncooperative people.
"The Taser itself is a legitimate law-enforcement tool," said Kirkham, the criminologist. "The problem is the abusive use of them. They're supposed to be only used to protect yourself or another person from imminent aggression and physical harm. They're overused now."