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Penetration Depths of Conducted Electrical Weapon Probes Into Human Skull Phantoms

Bolliger, Stephan Andreas, MD*; Gort, Silvan; Kaelin, Beat; Barrera, Vera, MD*; Thali, Michael Josef, MD*; Martinez, Rosa Maria, MD*

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: June 2019 - Volume 40 - Issue 2 - p 102–107
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0000000000000471
Original Articles

Occasional case reports have described isolated cases of conducted electrical weapon (CEW) probes piercing the human skull. In an experimental setting, we examined whether these cases were just unfortunate incidents, how deeply such probes can pierce the skull, and whether firing distance and CEW probe type play a role in the skull-piercing capability.

We fired 5 different CEW cartridges (XP 10.6 m, XP 7.6 m, smart 10.6 m, smart 7.6 m, and smart probe 7.6 m) from 4 different distances (0.5, 1, 2, and 4 m) at head phantoms made of either 5- or 7-mm-thick polyurethane spheres covered with a thin layer of gelatine and buckskin. The piercing depths were recorded by computed tomographic scanning.

All tested cartridges managed to pierce the head phantoms. Piercing depths of up to 6.6 mm in the 5-mm heads and depths of almost 5 mm in the 7-mm heads were recorded. Deepest piercing depths were attained with firing distances of 2 m or less.

Our results showed that all tested CEW probes are capable of piercing the skull and that shorter firing distances tend to lead to deeper piercing depths.

From the *Department of Forensic Medicine and Imaging, Zurich Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Zurich;

SWAT, City Police Zurich; and

Firearms Division, Forensic Institute, Zurich, Switzerland.

Manuscript received October 23, 2018; accepted January 21, 2019.

Reprints: Stephan Andreas Bolliger, MD, Department of Forensic Medicine and Imaging, Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190/52, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail:

No funding was received from the National Institutes of Health, Wellcome Trust, HHMI, or others.

The authors report conflict of interest.

© 2019 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.