Friday, October 30, 2015 07:07 PM

U.S. border authorities fired stun guns at least 70 times over four years at people who were running away, even though there was no struggle or clear indication that agents were in danger, a newspaper reported Friday.

At least six times, agents used the weapons against people who were trying to climb a border fence and get back into Mexico.

The Los Angeles Times also said three people had died after being hit by Tasers wielded by border agents or customs officers.

Two people were shocked while they were handcuffed, and two were hit with five cycles of the weapon, even though the agency's policy says no one should receive more than three.

The Times examined 450 uses of Tasers from 2010 to 2013 that were documented by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.

It found that most of the people subjected to Tasers had been caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border or were suspected of being in the country illegally, not fleeing arrest on more serious charges.

The nation's largest law enforcement agency, which oversees the Border Patrol and inspectors at ports of entry, decided in 2008 to supply agents with the hand-held devices that deliver a paralyzing electric charge as a way to end confrontations quickly and safely.

The program started with a pilot project in Texas and devices were widely distributed to agents beginning in 2010.

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske issued a new use-of-force policy last year. Now, agents are instructed to use Tasers only when a suspect poses an imminent threat and to be particularly cautious when subjects are running.

The Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies have become more restrained in using Tasers, Kerlikowske said, even though he still believes "the good far outweighs the bad" with the weapons.

"You're seeing much less of the Taser being used when someone is in a precarious position, or fleeing," said Kerlikowske, a former police chief in Seattle. "I think we've learned a lot, and so has law enforcement."