UPDATE 2-Digital Ally shares surge on interest in wearable cameras
(Adds Taser International's stock symbol)
By Akane Otani and Mridhula Raghavan
Aug 25 (Reuters) - Shares of Digital Ally Inc, a company that produces wearable cameras, rose as much as 80 percent to $14.25 on Monday as outrage over the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Missouri fueled interest in the company's devices.
More than 24 million shares changed hands on Monday making the stock one of the most heavily traded on the Nasdaq. The move in the stock brought shares to levels not seen since October 2013.
Digital Ally shares closed about 57 percent higher at $12.50.
Public outrage over the Aug. 9 police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, has led a growing crowd to sign a White House petition calling for police to be required to wear cameras on the job.
It has also sparked increased interest in Digital Ally shares. At least 7.4 million shares changed hands in each of the last four sessions, but between August 2009 and June 2014, the stock's average daily volume was only about 13,000 shares.
Digital Ally Chief Executive Stanton Ross told Reuters on Monday that the company had been receiving offers "all the time", but said he wouldn't divulge any more details until a commitment letter had been signed.
Digital Ally's video cameras sell for $795 and are compact enough to be pinned to shirts, belts or eyeglasses.
"We have had a lot more enquiries because of the civil unrest that is going on over in Ferguson," Ross told Reuters last week.
Taser International Inc CEO Rick Smith told Reuters the estimated market for wearable video in North America is about $500 million, citing a Cambridge University study using Taser equipment.
Although wearable cameras only accounted for 9 percent of Digital Ally's total sales in the June quarter, sales could surge as pressure mounts to find ways to hold law enforcement officials accountable.
In a Cambridge University study, complaints against a California police department were found to fall drastically after officers began wearing cameras on the job. Both suspects and officers were strongly deterred from violating rules when they were videotaped, the study found.
Still, up until this week, the recent gains in the stock had led many investors to bet against the stock's rise. Heavy demand drove 68 percent of shares available to borrow being lent for short bets, according to data provider Markit, which watches short-selling activity. (Editing by Andrew Hay and Simon Jennings)