Officers from Hawthorne Police Department in California twice Tasered a man who was trying to sign to them that he was deaf, a lawsuit allegees.
The officers then beat the deaf man until he was unconscious and then charged him with assault.
A federal complaint has since been filed against the police department for violating Jonathan Meister’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to the complaint, Miester says the cops “shot Taser darts into Mr. Meister, administered a number of painful electric shocks, struck him with fists and feet, and forcibly took him to the ground.”
The complaint names officers Jeffrey Salmon, Jeffrey Tysl, Erica Bristow and Mark Hultgren as defendants, but also names the City of Hawthorne, its Police Department and Police Chief Robert Fager in the lawsuit.
“This incident occurred in substantial part because the HPD [Hawthorne Police Department] does not provide its officers the training and resources to serve people who are deaf or hard of hearing, including those who communicate primarily through American Sign Language,” the suit reads.
Meister was collecting a snowboard that a friend had loaned to him ahead of a skiing trip to Utah. According to the lawsuit, the four officers questioned him outside his friend’s house. He was dressed in snowboarding gear and was loading boxes into his car.
Due to his disability, he did not hear their questions. One officer then grabbed his hand, and Meister attempted to signal to the officers that he was deaf. The officers, however, took his hand movements as “resistance.”
They then “struck Meister with fists and feet, and forcibly took him to the ground” and shocked him multiple times with a Taser.
Meister eventually lost consciousness, and he was escorted to a medical center where he was charged with assaulting the officers. The charge has since been dropped.
Meister who is being represented by John Burton of Pasadena, is seeking “statutory, treble and punitive damage for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, and civil rights violations.”
The 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 lawsuit reads.