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N.Y. Officer: I Was Right to Tase Mom in Front of Kids

A sheriff's deputy said in an e-mail that he made the right decision when he zapped a woman with a stun gun during a traffic stop in a Syracuse suburb this year, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Sean Andrews, in a message obtained by the Post-Standard and published Sunday on its Web site, said the video taken from the dashboard of the Onondaga County officer's car "alone does not look good to the public because the general public have difficulty putting themselves in a cop's position." But he says he was justified in using the Taser on her.

Andrews, 37, was suspended for 30 days after an administrative hearing Aug. 20 and could face further disciplinary actions over the Jan. 31 traffic stop in Salina.

The sheriff's deputy used a Taser to subdue the woman, Audra Harmon, after pulling her minivan over. The 38-year-old mother was driving with two children in the car.

The video shows the officer stunning Harmon with two Taser shots. Harmon was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and driving 50 mph in a 45 mph zone. The charges were dismissed, and Harmon sued the sheriff's department in early August.

In his e-mail, Andrews writes that he stopped Harmon because it appeared that she was talking on her cell phone and appeared to be speeding. He said he decided to use the Taser based on his training because Harmon defied his orders and because he couldn't see her hands at certain points during the stop.

He also wrote that he was concerned that she would drive off if he didn't use the Taser on her, and that he would "have a vehicle pursuit with two kids in the car."

His direct supervisor supported the decision, Andrews wrote, and even sent a memo to administrators saying Andrews had not violated the department's policies on use of force or Tasers.

He goes on to accuse Sheriff Kevin Walsh of playing politics by asking him to resign after the arrest became fodder for the media in August, months after the actual incident.

"It is no mystery that this was a completely political move on the Sheriff's part because he realizes that the video alone with no explanation does not look good and he feels his job will be in jeopardy," Andrews said.

A message requesting comment from the sheriff's department was not immediately returned Sunday afternoon.

Harmon said that she largely agrees with Andrews' account but says she posed no physical threat to the sheriff's deputy. Her lawyer says that the sheriff's department and district attorney's office apparently don't support Andrews' justification of his actions because he has been suspended and the charges dismissed.

Andrews wrote the e-mail for friends and family shortly after the video was released earlier this month, said his mother, Joan Andrews.

She said the publicity surrounding the case has hurt her son and his family.

Sean Andrews did not immediately respond to a message left early Sunday at a number listed for him.