21 Jul 2009

Aboriginal man catches fire after hit by taser

8:07 pm on 21 July 2009

A man caught alight after police used a taser on him as they responded to reports of petrol sniffing in a remote desert community in Western Australia.

Ronald Mitchell, 36, was airlifted to Royal Perth Hospital suffering third degree burns following a confrontation with police who were called to a house in Warburton, 1,540km northeast of Perth on Monday.

A known petrol sniffer in the Aboriginal community, Mr Mitchell ran from the house at officers carrying a container believed to contain fuel and a cigarette lighter, police said.

Mr Mitchell was asked to stop, but continued running toward officers and the stun gun was then used, police spokesperson Susan Usher said.

"The man caught alight and the officer immediately went to the man's aid, putting him on the ground and smothering the fire with his bare hands."

The officer was struck on the head by rocks thrown by an 18-year-old woman while trying to help the man, Ms Usher said. The policeman suffered moderate burns to his hands.

Mr Mitchell suffered burns to 10% of his body and was airlifted to Royal Perth Hospital for treatment, police said.

He has been charged with assault to prevent arrest and possession of a sniffing substance, while the woman was charged with two counts of assaulting a public officer.

Police are investigating the incident.