A teenager carrying a Bible and shouting "I want Jesus" was shot twice with a police stun gun and later died at a St. Louis hospital, authorities said.
The growing use of stun guns by U.S. law enforcement agencies has raised concerns among human rights groups. In a report released in March, the international group Amnesty International said it had logged at least 156 deaths across the U.S. in the previous five years related to police stun guns.
In a statement obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, police in Jerseyville, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of St. Louis, said 17-year-old Roger Holyfield would not acknowledge officers who approached him and he continued yelling, "I want Jesus."
Police tried to calm the teen, but Holyfield became combative, according to the statement. Officers fired the stun gun at him after he ignored their warnings, then fired again when he continued struggling, police said.
Holyfield was flown to St. Louis' Cardinal Glennon Hospital after the confrontation Saturday; he died there Sunday, police said.
An autopsy was planned for Tuesday.
The statement expressed sympathy to Holyfield's family but said city and police officials would not discuss the matter further.
Calls Tuesday to Jerseyville Police Chief Brad Blackorby were not immediately returned. The department has been using stun guns for about five months, according to the statement.
The rise in stun gun-related deaths accompanies a marked increase in the number of U.S. law enforcement agencies employing devices made by Taser International Inc. of Scottsdale, Arizona. About 1,000 of the nation's 18,000 police agencies used Tasers in 2001; more than 7,000 departments had them last year, according to a government study.
Police had used Tasers more than 70,000 times as of last year, Congress' Government Accountability Office said, reports AP.
Amnesty International has urged police departments to suspend the use of Tasers pending more study. Taser International said the group's count was flawed and falsely linked deaths to Taser use when there has been no such official conclusion.