- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Fairfax County, Va., police yesterday were searching for a young man who attacked a store manager with a non-lethal stun gun during a weekend robbery attempt.

"This is actually the first robbery that we're aware of where a stun gun was used as a weapon," said Fairfax County police spokeswoman Gretchen Lacharite.

Police said the man entered Planet Play at the Springfield Mall at about 7 p.m. Sunday, grabbed the 22-year-old manager from behind and shocked her in the neck.

He took her to a back office and demanded money. The crime was interrupted when the manager received a phone call, and the man ran off without any cash.

The manager, a Herndon resident, was treated at Inova Fairfax Hospital for minor injuries.

Planet Play, an indoor play facility for children, offers laser tag, among other activities.

Stun guns legal in 43 states are rarely used to commit crimes and rarely deadly.

It is legal to carry a stun gun in Virginia and most of Maryland, but not in the District of Columbia. They are usually bought for self-defense, much like pepper spray.

"People who use stun guns use them to control somebody," said Officer Joyce Utter, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County (Md.) Police Department.

About 300 types of stun guns are on the market. Some resemble electric shavers and can be carried on a belt. Others look like batons or traditional guns.

Some can be ordered over the Internet for as little as $9, but others can cost hundreds of dollars.

According to a catalog that explains stun guns, a three- to five-second blast delivers a "high-voltage, low-amperage shock, causing loss of balance and muscle control, confusion and disorientation. Full recovery takes about five to 10 minutes, and there is no permanent damage."

A type of stun gun called a Taser fires darts into the body, then sends an electric shock through attached wires. Some darts require the help of a doctor to be removed.

Fairfax County police have firsthand experience with Tasers. Supervisors are taught to use the weapons and even take a shock in the leg to experience the effects firsthand.

In a recent, unrelated crime, a Germantown, Md., teen-ager in March used a stun gun to knock out his girlfriend's best friend in a bizarre murder attempt, Montgomery County police said.

His charges include first-degree assault and carrying a concealed weapon.

The attacker in the botched Springfield Mall robbery is described as a black man in his 20s, about 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds. He was wearing blue jeans, a gray sweatshirt and tan boots.

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