Articles Posted in Police Brutality

Earlier this week in Cleveland, Ohio, the family of a 12-year-old boy who was killed by police filed a lawsuit against the Department and the City, claiming that the officers’ negligent actions led to the death of their loved one. According to a report by one local news source, the incident occurred on the evening of November 22, when police responded to a report of a person with a gun on a playground.

gun-1428502-mEvidently, the responding officers pulled up right next to the child rather than parking farther away and approaching from a distance. A video from a nearby surveillance camera shows one of the officers shoot the boy within two seconds of exiting the car. According to the officers, they were responding to what they thought was the boy brandishing a firearm. In reality, it was an Airsoft gun that shoots non-lethal plastic pellets. The video shows that he wasn’t reaching for the gun.

The lawsuit alleges that the officers waited four minutes to call in for emergency responders after they shot the young boy. He was eventually taken to the hospital. However, he sadly died the next day.

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If you recall, last year a Maryland man was killed when he was accosted by three police officers for sneaking into a movie for which he didn’t have a ticket. The 26-year-old man had Down Syndrome and had walked back into the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” after seeing it once to watch it again. He did not have a ticket for the second showing.

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Three Frederick County deputies were moonlighting as security guards for that particular theater, and they approached the man. The situation escalated, and the deputies eventually placed the man in handcuffs and dragged him out of the theater. At some point in the fray, the three deputies crushed the man’s larynx, which caused him to have difficulty breathing.

The deputies released the man and called emergency personnel, but it was too late. He had asphyxiated in the meantime.

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Earlier this year, a man with Down Syndrome was killed when three police officers moonlighting as mall security officers tried to detain the man for repeatedly viewing the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” without a ticket. According to a report by the Washington Post, the officers tried to forcibly remove the man and in the process fractured his larynx, causing him to suffocate. The medical examiner listed the death as a homicide, but the district attorney decided not to press criminal charges.

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Evidently, the man’s family has filed suit against the State of Maryland, claiming that the treatment of their loved one was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The mall operator as well as the cinema are also named in the suit.

Maryland’s Response

The State of Maryland is asking the federal court hearing the case to dismiss the suit, arguing that the man was targeted by the police officers not because of his disability but because he was breaking the law.

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Cinemaaustralia.jpgThe family of a man who was killed in an altercation with off-duty sheriff’s deputies at a Maryland movie theater have filed an amended complaint in their wrongful death and survival lawsuit. Estate of Saylor, et al, v. Regal Cinemas, Inc., et al, No. 1:13-cv-03089, am. complaint (D. Md., Mar. 11, 2014). Several defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit late last year, claiming that the lawsuit failed to state a claim on which the court could grant relief against them. The plaintiffs sought and received leave from the court to amend their complaint, dropping two defendants and adding the State of Maryland in March 2014.

The decedent, Robert Ethan Saylor, was twenty-six years old at the time of his death on January 12, 2013. He had Down Syndrome, with an I.Q. of 40 and physical features commonly associated with the condition. According to the amended complaint, he was about five-feet-six-inches tall and weighed 294 pounds. He went to a movie theater in Frederick on the evening of January 12 with an aide. After the movie, Saylor reportedly became angry when the aide asked if he wanted to go home. The aide called Saylor’s mother, who suggested she go get the car. She left Saylor outside the theater to get the car, which was permitted under his care plan, and when she returned found that he had gone back inside.

A manager approached the aide, and she explained Saylor’s condition, explained that he would “freak out” if touched, id. at 6, and recommended that no one speak to him. The manager then asked an off-duty sheriff’s deputy working as a security guard to remove Saylor. The guard called in two additional security guards, also off-duty deputies, to assist. When they attempted to physically remove Saylor, he resisted, and the guards used force against him. Saylor suffered a fractured larynx, and was pronounced dead at the hospital just before midnight. The medical examiner ruled it a homicide. The plaintiffs describe it as a “violent, terrifying, and painful death.” Id. at 7.

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HPD_SWAT_Team.jpgA lawsuit alleges that sheriff’s deputies negligently placed a locksmith in an unreasonably dangerous situation by bringing him along on an eviction without warning him of specific known risks, resulting in his death. Engert, et al v. Stanislaus County, et al, No. 1:13-cv-00126, 2nd am. complaint (E.D. Ca., Oct. 23, 2013). The individual subject to eviction was reportedly known to be both heavily armed and violent, but the sheriff’s deputies allegedly did not warn the locksmith of the danger, nor did they provide any safeguards for him. The locksmith’s widow sued the county and various county officials for violations of her late husband’s civil and constitutional rights, negligence, and wrongful death.

Two deputies of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, Robert Paris and Michael Glinskas, were assigned on April 12, 2012 to perform an eviction at an apartment in Modesto, California. According to the plaintiff’s most recent amended complaint, the apartment’s occupant, James Ferrario, was known to the sheriff’s department as a “dangerous, mentally unstable individual, with weapons in his home,” and with a history of threats and assaults. The deputies brought a locksmith, Glendon Engert, along to open the apartment door.

The deputies allegedly did not warn Engert of the possible threat posed by Ferrario. Engert’s position in front of a doorway, with a possibly armed individual inside, is reportedly known as a “vertical coffin.” Ferrario opened fire from inside the apartment with armor-piercing bullets, killing Engert and Paris. After an eleven-hour standoff, Ferrario committed suicide. A search of his apartment yielded twenty-two firearms, including an M16 and an SKS rifle, and about five hundred rounds of ammunition.

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file0001127388145.jpgThe parents of a seven year-old Bronx boy filed a notice of a claim against the New York City Police Department for $250 million. Another student at their son’s elementary school accused the boy of stealing five dollars from him, and the parents allege that the police drastically overreacted by detaining him for ten hours. The claim, filed with city officials, is a required step prior to filing a lawsuit for damages against the city.

Police say that they responded to a report of a robbery and assault at PS X114 in the Bronx at around 10:20 a.m. on December 4, 2012, four days after the alleged offense occurred. The child claiming to be the victim of the robbery, a nine year-old whom we shall refer to as A., alleged that another boy, seven year-old W., punched and shoved him, then took five dollars out of his pocket. This occurred off school grounds. A. described W. to the media as “the worst bully,” claiming that W. routinely harassed him. W. denied A.’s allegations, saying that the money had fallen to the ground, and that another boy picked it up. W.’s family alleged that another boy later admitted to the theft.

Instead of sending W. to the principal’s office, the school called the police, who allegedly pulled W. out of class and detained him at the school for about four hours. They then took W. to the 44th Precinct. W.’s mother, Frances Mendez, says that she was not allowed to see W. when she arrived at the station. When officers eventually allowed Mendez and her sister to see W., they claim that they found him in a panicked state with his left wrist handcuffed to a wall. W. allegedly spent six hours at the precinct. Mendez claims that officers “verbally, physically, and emotionally abused” W. during this time, and that they also “intimidated, humiliated, embarrassed and defamed” him.

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320px-Towanda_Main_Street.jpgA federal lawsuit claims that multiple Pennsylvania State Police officers physically and verbally assaulted a man, both during a traffic stop and while he was in police custody. Video from a police cruiser dashboard camera reportedly shows both verbal and physical abuse by troopers, and the man says that police continued to assault him for hours afterwards. The lawsuit claims various violations of constitutional rights and intentional torts against the state police department and certain individual officers.

Police pulled over 31 year-old Robert Leone, a resident of Vestal, New York, on March 8, 2010, on Route 6 in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Police allege that Leone was involved in a hit and run, that he led them on a chase, and that he was acting “out of control.” Leone denies any involvement in a hit and run accident. Prosecutors later claimed he had high levels of the drug Adderall, a stimulant used to treat attention-deficit disorders, in his system at the time. Dashboard camera footage of the arrest reportedly shows state troopers beating Leone, and Leone says that officers moved him to an area out of the view of the camera to continue the beatings.

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1147342_69967658.jpgA woman in Minnesota is suing several registered nurses (RNs) over the death of her son, who died while in the custody of the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MDOC). The lawsuit alleges that a nurse employed by the prison withheld emergency medical care from her son, who had a history of seizures, because of “protocols” established by the private contractor hired to provide medical care for the state’s inmates.

Xavius Scullark-Johnson, age 27, was an inmate at the state prison in Rush City, Minnesota with only three months left on his sentence. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the prison has not had 24-hour medical staff since 2002. Doctors, all of whom are employed by health contractor Corizon, Inc., only work Monday through Friday until 4:00 p.m. Nurses at the prison are state employees who work seven days a week, but their shifts end at 10:30 p.m. Corizon and MDOC closely monitor all medical-related expenses, including ambulance trips.

Scullark-Johnson reportedly suffered multiple seizures during the evening of June 28. An on-duty nurse, Linda Andrews, found him on the floor of his cell, “soaked in urine” and “in an altered state of consciousness.” She covered him and left orders to the guards to check on him regularly. Several hours later, a guard called the on-call doctor, Sharyn Barney, informing her that Scullark-Johnson had a seizure the previous evening, and that his cellmate could not wake him. She reportedly advised the guard to monitor him overnight and report his condition to the medical staff in the morning. No one had access to Scullark-Johnson’s medical records at the time because the prison health center was closed for the night. The guard called Barney again several hours later, and the doctor agreed that the guard should call for an ambulance.

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Taser-x26A federal jury in Baltimore returned a verdict in late January in favor of former Sheriff’s Deputy Rudy Torres, finding that he was not liable in the 2007 death of 20 year-old Jarrel Gray. While responding to a report of a fight, Torres used his electric stun gun on Gray twice. Gray died while waiting for an ambulance at the scene.

In the early morning of November 18, 2007, multiple people in a neighborhood just south of Frederick called police to report a fight. Torres responded to the call. One witness said he heard someone say “Get on the ground” and then heard a “pop noise” he recognized as a stun gun. Another witness at trial said that Gray was complying with Torres’ instructions when he used the stun gun the first time. A witness testified that he heard Gray say that his hands were on the ground.

After the first shock from the stun gun, Gray reportedly fell to the ground and did not move. He reportedly had his hands on the ground in front of him. Torres used the stun gun on Gray a second time, which Gray’s family’s attorney called “sadistic.” All parties agree that Gray was already dead by the time the ambulance arrived. The medical examiner reported that Gray died from “sudden death associated with restraint and alcohol intoxication.” According to Baltimore’s CBS affiliate WJZ, the medical examiner did not specifically identify the stun gun as the cause of death, but the stun gun was the only means of restraint included in the report.

Gray’s parents sued Torres, the Sheriff’s Department, and Frederick County for wrongful death. They alleged that Torres used excessive and unnecessary force. The suit demanded $145 million in damages.

A trial occurred in January that only addressed the Grays’ claims against Torres. Another trial against the sheriff’s office and the county may proceed at a later date. Torres argued that the use of force was reasonable and necessary under the circumstances. He testified that Gray had his hands in his pants and was behaving erratically, although other witnesses reportedly contradicted that account. Torres said that the second use of the stun gun was necessary because Gray refused to show his hands.

A “law enforcement expert” retained by Torres’ defense team testified that Torres was reasonable in viewing Gray as a threat both times he used the stun gun. The expert reportedly told jurors that Gray’s lack of response after the first shock could have been an act.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of Torres on January 25, 2012. According to CBS News, the jury concluded that although Torres assaulted Gray, his use of the stun gun was a reasonable use of force to defend himself or others. Because they concluded that Torres used a reasonable amount of force, he was shielded from liability.

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449966_49903379_02272012.jpgPolice went to the Greenbelt, Maryland home of Lynda Sheppard on the morning of May 26, 2010 with an arrest warrant for her son, Michael Mang. Sheppard had a protection order against her 41 year-old son and had requested a warrant for his arrest, saying he had threatened and assaulted her. Police arrested Mang, and hours later he was dead.

Police allegedly entered Sheppard’s house that morning, woke Mang, and then hit him and tasered him. Mang reportedly suffered bruising, a broken nose, and a broken rib.

Police took Mang to the hospital, where he was reportedly alert and cooperative. After several hours, though, Mang began to complain of chest pains and allegedly requested a cardiac examination. Instead, the hospital allegedly released him to police. He was reportedly held at the hospital from 5:37 a.m. to 9:20 a.m., when police took custody of him and took him to the police station. They found him lying unconscious in the station’s processing area at about 9:55 a.m. and returned him to the hospital. He was reportedly pronounced dead at the hospital at around 10:46 a.m.

An investigation by the medical examiner found evidence of alcohol consumption, but no drugs. They also found marks on his lower back that resembled taser marks. The medical examiner concluded that Mang died of natural causes stemming from a heart condition. He reportedly had a coronary blockage that raised suspicion of a heart attack.

Sheppard filed a federal lawsuit in July 2011 against the city of Greenbelt, alleging that the arresting officers caused Mang’s death by using unnecessary and unreasonable force in arresting him. The petition detailed Mang’s injuries and the timeline of events leading up to his death. She demanded $10 million in damages.

The city denied any connection between Mang’s injuries and his death. An internal police investigation concluded that the arresting officers used appropriate force against Mang because he fought back. The city’s attorney told the Greenbelt Patch that Mang’s injuries could simply have been the result of fighting with police.

Sheppard dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice on February 15, 2012. “Without prejudice” means that she can re-file the claim within the original statute of limitations. The Greenbelt police chief described the suit as frivolous and said that the internal investigation vindicated the city’s defense to the suit, that Mang’s injuries at the hands of police did not cause his death.

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