Oregon official suspects Taser stopped pacemaker

PORTLAND — A pacemaker removed from the body of an 87-year-old woman will be tested to determine whether the jolt from an officer's stun gun affected it, the medical examiner said.

Dr. Larry Lewman told The Oregonian newspaper in a story published Thursday he suspects the Taser's 50,000-jolt interfered with the pacemaker but can't say for sure.

Phyllis Owens died July 8 after a confrontation at a rural housing development near Boring, in Clackamas County.

A deputy fired the stun gun at her when she made a move for a weapon she had put down, the sheriff's department said.

"The time sequence suggest the electric charge from the stun gun may have had an effect," Lewman said. "But I still can't say for sure. I've never been involved in a case like this."

Lewman repeated his assessment that Owens suffered from heart disease, which contributed directly or indirectly to her death. "A healthy person would not have died from this," he said.

The pacemaker was implanted in 2007, Lewman said.

Owens, who had been in ill health, was wearing an admission bracelet from a recent hospital visit when her body was brought to the medical examiner's lab.

A Clackamas County sheriff's deputy shot Owens with the Taser after about 15 minutes of tense negotiations, during which Owens appeared to be brandishing a semiautomatic handgun.

The sheriff's office later reported it was a pellet gun replica of a firearm.

Deputies Steve Shelly and Alan Alderman have been placed on administrative leave while the Clackamas County Major Crimes Team investigates. The team will submit its findings to the district attorney's office for review.

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