Police in Hawthorne, California are facing scrutiny from residents after they used a stun gun on a deaf man who was trying to communicate with them through sign language.
The Feb. 13 incident left Jonathan Meister bruised and unconscious. The officers involved — Jeffrey Salmon, Jeffrey Tysl, Erica Bristow, and Mark Hultgren — are now facing a lawsuit.
According to the Daily Mail:
Meister was loading boxes he left at a friend’s house into his car when cops who were told there may be a burglary at the house and arrived at the scene.
The officers told Meister to stop loading the boxes but because he was deaf, Meister did not hear the police officers’ commands.
Meister tried to use sign language to communicate with police and one of the officers mistook his hand motions for aggressive force.
The officers punched Meister and kicked him and also allegedly shot him twice with a taser. Another officer then gave Meister a ‘drive stun’ to his abdomen.
According to reports, the officers also allegedly beat Meister until he was unconscious.
Meister was taken to a hospital, where he was charged with assaulting police officers. When the officers realized their error, the charges were dropped. Meister, however, is suing the police for violating his rights as a disabled person under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The lawsuit states, “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.”
The lawsuit also states that the Hawthorne Police Department 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.”
The Hawthorne Police Department released a statement regarding the incident:
“Hawthorne Police Department officers are trained to deal with incidents where communication, for various reasons, can sometimes be difficult. Officers make every effort to communicate effectively and bring every one of these incidents to a peaceful resolution.”
Aside from the lawsuit Meister has filed, no disciplinary action has been taken against the officers as of Feb. 18.
SOURCE: Daily Mail | PHOTO CREDIT: Handout