Family attributes tasered man’s behavior to epileptic seizure the night before his death

Ariana Davidonis displays a painting by Macadam Mason at her home in Thetford, where Mason was tased Wednesday. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

Ariana Davidonis displays a painting by Macadam Mason at her home in Thetford, where Mason was tased Wednesday. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

Artwork spills out of the small home on a dirt road a couple miles outside Thetford Center, where Theresa and Ariana Davidonis live. A wooden archway stands in front of the vinyl-sided home at the beginning of a stone path around the house to a patio, furnished with a small wooden table. Inside, a painting sits unfinished.

The archway, the table, the stone path, the patio the painting — all were created by Macadam Mason.

Another archway stands at the back edge of the patio, feet from where Mason was standing when Vermont State Police Trooper David Shaffer triggered his Taser Wednesday evening, striking Mason in the chest. Loved ones watched from a large picture window on the side of the house as Shaffer, and subsequently, EMTs, tried to revive Mason. Despite their attempts, Mason was declared dead upon arrival at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Police say they went to the home after a call from Dartmouth-Hitchcock alerting them that Mason had threatened violence against himself and others. Police say Shaffer shot his Taser at Mason when Mason began yelling and moving toward Shaffer as the trooper attempted to take him into protective custody.

Mason was recovering from a seizure at the time of his death, his loved ones say.

Theresa Davidonis was Mason’s significant other. The couple had been living together seven years in the small Thetford home with Davidonis’ teenaged daughter Ariana. Holly, Theresa’s oldest daughter, said Mason was epileptic and suffered from more than 10 seizures last year.

Mason, 39, had a seizure Tuesday evening, just a day before his death.

“It’s part of being [epileptic], you know. He had grand mal seizures. And he had just had a seizure the day before … After he has his seizures, for two days he doesn’t remember stuff, he doesn’t know how to tie shoes, he –” Holly’s younger sister, Ariana cuts in, “Like one time I even had to feed him.”

Holly and Ariana Davidonis, as well as their brother Aleks, all attribute Mason’s behavior the night of his death to the seizure he suffered Tuesday evening.

“Macadam usually isn’t a violent person,” Ariana said. “Just every time – every single time he has a seizure, even the hospital girls, they put boxing gloves on him, because he just – after every seizure he gets really violent.”

Mason was under medical care for his epilepsy and had a prescription for Depakote, an anticonvulsant, at a dosage to treat epilepsy. Holly said he had been hospitalized at one point last year after experiencing multiple seizures.

When he wasn’t recovering from a seizure, though, loved ones described him as a kind, caring man.

“He was amazing with the children, he was gentle, he was an artist,” she said.

At a press conference about the Mason’s death Thursday morning, Col. Thomas L’Esperance confirmed that Mason had a criminal record. Court records at Orange County Superior Court list two DUI charges and one for retail theft of $900 or less. The DUI charges were on July 6, 2010, and Jan. 24, 2009; the retail theft charge was April 21, 2009.

Holly offered a simple explanation for the criminal activity.

“In the past, he did have some charges against him. He was alcoholic; he was an addict. And everybody should know that when addicts are using, they are not the same people, and he hadn’t been in trouble since 2009, so he had been sober for these last three years,” Holly said. “He’s been amazing, he’s an amazing man.”

Aleks Davidonis said he saw Mason sitting on a small hillside with two officers aiming firearms at him. He stood, raised his arms with open palms, and told the officers to shoot him. Both police and Aleks said Shaffer, who was pointing an assault rifle at Mason, lowered the weapon and drew his Taser model X-26 and discharged it, striking Mason in the chest from a range of less than 10 feet.

“He just went limp,” Aleks said. “Didn’t say a word. Just, down.”

Editor’s note: A service for Mason is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 24, at the Thetford Methodist Church in Thetford Center, followed by a reception at the community building.

Taylor Dobbs

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  • Randy Koch

    Isn’t it time to take the Taser out of the equation? It’s clearly not the “non-lethal” option because it frequently kills. Plus it is a means for a sadistic or paranoid police officer to torture. Shouldn’t the emphasis be on using their heads rather than their weapons?

    Let’s get rid of the tasers already.

  • Barry Kade

    I’m sure this report will come as a relief to the police officers involved. Now the use can likely be justified under existing protocols.
    Randy has it right. Time to get rid of tasers. As long as they are in the police arsenal they will be used too frequently and not for their intended purpose.

  • According to the manufacturer (Times Argus) a taser shouldn’t be used in the chest area, which is where he was shot. There are other exceptions where it shouldn’t be used, such as age. So why is it considered a “non lethal” weapon such as a nite stick?

  • Marjorie Lundquist

    The Taser is a LETHAL weapon that CAN be used NON-LETHALLY on certain people under certain circumstances. Unfortunately, its manufacturer (TASER International, Inc.; Scottsdale, AZ) can sell a lot more Tasers by representing this weapon as a NON-LETHAL (or LESS-LETHAL) weapon that is very safe, than by telling the truth about it, so it is marketed to law enforcement agencies as a very safe weapon, with no mention made of the circumstances that make its use dangerous to the public (poor health or certain genetic diseases or certain behaviors of the targeted person; advanced age of the targeted person). At most law enforcement agencies, the top person wants so badly to believe everything that TASER International says about the Taser that the agency’s mission of protecting the public goes right down the drain: the Taser protects the law enforcement officer from the public, in most situations.

  • Marjorie Lundquist

    I’m glad that Taylor Dobbs identified the model of Taser that was deployed against Macadam Mason. I wish all journalists provided this information when they write stories about deaths that follow use of a Taser.

  • Sally Shaw

    Tasers, drones, I think it’s tragic that the police are not trained in how to distinguish between potentially criminal behavior and mental distress. When civil liberties take a back seat to police autonomy, and corporations have more rights than people, what are we? Where are we going? Do we want to go there?

  • Carla Davids

    The Vermont State Police Trooper, David Shaffer, should be tried for MURDER, put in the electric chair, and have some electricity through his body. He took an innocent life, without compassion, and destroyed a family. The Vermont State Troopers should all hide their heads in shame at this tragedy, purported by the highest levels of ignorance in their state agency. Tasers are lethal. Tasers kill. Tasers torment and torture, leaving not only physical damage, but lifelong emotional horror. Tasers should not be in anyone’s hands, including law enforcement, under the ridiculous notion that they are “less lethal”, sort of like being “less pregnant”, makes no sense at all. The American Heart Association has just published a scientific study, proving Taser guns are incredibly dangerous, interfering with conduction of the heart, and often resulting in cardiac arrest and ultimate death to the victim. Taser International, in its greed, is making profits off the torturing and murder of our innocent, sick and indigent. No one is safe from the brutality and horrendous violence of the Arizona profiteers at corporate Taser International.

  • Jim Busch

    There is no such thing as “non-lethal”. The correct term is “less than lethal”. They are two different definitions.

    As for the comment mentioned earlier about using a “night stick” being considered “non-lethal”, that too is incorrect. Night-sticks/billy clubs/batons are linked to more deaths than tazers are.
    So there is no other option. Both items have their down sides.

  • Laura Jones

    The time after a seizure is very confusing. I forget who my husband and other family members are, and become inconsolably upset. I even find sometimes that I can’t speak for long periods of time. It’s incredibly frightening. I can’t imagine trying to communicate with someone pointing a gun at me when I’m like that. I feel so sorry for this man and his family…

  • Eric LeVasseur

    I am shocked at the hate towards this state trooper. Is it tragic that Mr. Mason died and I am sure that trooper will be holding on to that for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, in many cases there are no good alternatives. I have read about many instances tazing has been quick and unnecessary. I believe that this trooper intended to use the tazer for the purpose it has been purchased and issued. He lowered his rifle after interacting with Mr. Mason and made a decision that he would have to use “less-than-lethal” means. THis will be unpopular and the reality is that I am not a fan of these alternative weapons, be they bean bag, electrical or using sound. That being said, this trooper identified Mr. Mason as being dangerous, and that he needed to use the resources he was given to protect himslef, the public and Mr. Mason.

    I do agree with Mr. Koch that tazers need to be removed from the belts, not because police officers are “sadistic or paranoid”, but because they are dangerous weapons. Police departments purchase these weapons, train their officers and issue them not to hurt or torture people, but to provide a intermediate step in resolving situations. Years ago, it was talk and then gun or stick. What I would like to see is taking the tazers out of the equation and give the officers more negotiation and communication tools. Unfortunately, there is no “less-than-lethal” weapon that is a good option.
    Bottom line is that Mr. Mason is gone and that is a tragedy. The trooper that was involved in this situation will probably never be the same and thus his family will be harmed as well. What we need to do is come together as a community, acknowledge the losses and try to figure out what can be the alternative.

  • Dennis Shanley

    “this trooper identified Mr. Mason as being dangerous, and that he needed to use the resources he was given to protect himslef, the public and Mr. Mason.”

    Protect Mr. Mason, Eric? I guess you are right. MacAdam Mason will never again be a danger to himself.

    “The Taser is a LETHAL weapon that CAN be used NON-LETHALLY on certain people under certain circumstances”. You are so right Marjorie but, then again, so was a Colt 45 Peacemaker. You could shoot a “Bad Guy” in the foot or bonk ’em on the head with it. Thing is, no one ever questioned when that machine left its holster that the potential for lethal consequences were present. I’m certain that Taser International didn’t have to work very hard to convince police agencies that eagerly embrace tanks, armored personnel carriers and standard issue assault weapons that Tasers are non lethal. The police heard what they wanted to hear from a corporation. Why should they not? The entire American justice system from the Supreme Court on down has embraced the notion that “Corporations are people too, my friend”, and that corporations are even more “equal” than flesh,blood and bone Americans. At the rate that the naturally born are shedding their freedoms I don’t know which will go first, America as envisioned by the Founding Fathers or the polar ice cap. Both are greatly diminished at this time.

  • i just think was a very sad situation for every one the family the police officer it is just a terrible thing

  • What I find odd, is that 3 State Troopers were not capable of physically restraining Mr. Macadam and resorted to using a taser. Perhaps the most appropriate response was a physical restraint. The guy was obviously unarmed, if 3 troopers are not able to deal with this one person, perhaps they are in the wrong line of work?

    Being a trooper is a tough dangerous job, which is why we expect them to be very physically capable, pay them very well and give them fantastic benefits. Tasers have a very questionable track record with many deaths since their introduction. Perhaps this is an issue to revisit and a good topic for a state wide discussion about the taser being a tool we want OUR law-enforcement people to use.

    This is a situation that did not need to happen. The trooper, tragically, showed poor judgment, despite what I am sure were good intentions and his just trying to do his job.

    It is important to understand the troopers actions, which may have been “justified” based on training and his fear of injury, but that does not make his actions correct or even appropriate given this situation.

    We need to remember that law enforcement officers work for us, the citizens. It is up to us to set the boundaries and guidelines in which they must operate. I constantly hear from members of the Law Enforcement Community they can not do their jobs without more and more “tools”. Warrantless access to the prescription database, tasers, drones. And yet, the number of cases of prescription drug abuse are down, violent crime is down. Obviously, they have the tools and are able to do their jobs. Like any professional, they want to make their jobs easier, but is easier at the expense of public saftey, our constitutional rights and privacy a good thing? I my mind, it is not.

    As I said before, this is a tragic situation that just did not need to happen.

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