by Steve Watson, PrisonPlanet.com
Four police officers in Hawthorne, California beat and tased an innocent deaf man when he failed to respond to their demands during a routine call out. The cops then charged the man with assault, according to details released as part of a lawsuit on behalf of the man.
The suit, being facilitated by the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness, notes that the plaintiff, Jonathan Meister, attempted to use sign language to explain to the cops that could not hear him when they confronted him outside his friend’s home, from which he was removing boxes of his own possessions.
A neighbor had called police, saying that Meister was acting suspiciously, after he had failed to respond to verbal calls from across the street.
Believing he was a burglar, the cops approached Meister, and grabbed him by the wrists when he didn’t verbally respond to them.
“Because he is deaf, Mr. Meister depends on using his hands while facing a person to communicate,” the complaint states. “The officers’ sudden aggression, which both caused pain and interfered with his ability to communicate, caused Mr. Meister reflexively to pull his hands away, hop back over the fence and step toward the gate … to create some space so that he could communicate.”
The suit then notes that Meister began to panic and resist being handcuffed. That was when one of the officers shot him twice with a taser. Another officer then deployed a second taser, delivering a “drive stun” to his abdomen.
The report notes that officers “struck Meister with fists and feet, and forcibly took him to the ground.” The cops then kicked and punched him in the back and stomach, while another choked him around the neck. The suit also alleges that the cops delivered “punishing shocks” with the tasers, intentionally “burning his flesh.”
After he was knocked unconscious and taken to a hospital, Meister was cited for assaulting the officers. The charges were later dropped.
Meister is suing the police for civil rights violations under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming that they used unnecessary aggression.
“We’re really concerned about the problem of law enforcement and people who are deaf,” said Meister’s attorney, Paula Pearlman. “He wasn’t doing anything other than trying to get away from people who were hurting him.”
The suit states that “this incident occurred in substantial part because the HPD does not provide its officers the training and resources to serve people who are deaf or hard of hearing.”
It claims that Hawthorne police failed “to provide effective communication to deaf and hard of hearing individuals, including himself, who come into contact and interact with the HPD, thereby discriminating against them.”
There are untold numbers of cases of police beating and even tasering both physically and mentally disabled people across the nation. In cases of people in wheelchairs to diabetics literally having fits on the ground, police have deployed tasers, which are supposed to be used only as a last option before lethal force.
Such cases highlight both a woeful lack of training in police departments, as well as an endemic eagerness to attack and punish anyone who fails to respond to demands and orders.
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