Four police officers in Hawthorne, California used a taser on a man who was attempting to tell them that he was deaf via sign language.
The Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness is filing a lawsuit on behalf of Jonathan Meister, who was charged with assault as a result of the incident. According to the lawsuit, Meister was retrieving boxes he had left at a friend’s house when police, alerted by a neighbor to a possible burglary, arrived.
Officers Jeffrey Salmon, Jeffrey Tysl, Erica Bristow, and Mark Hultgren allegedly ordered Meister to stop loading the boxes into his car, but Meister could not hear the order. One of the officers then grabbed Meister by the hand, who responded by attempting to use American Sign Language to communicate with the officer.
The officers interpreted his sudden movements as resistance, so they “struck Meister with fists and feet, and forcibly took him to the ground.” Once he was on the ground, one of the officers allegedly shot him twice with a taser. Another officer then delivered a “drive stun” to Meister’s abdomen.
They continued to beat Meister until he was unconscious, then escorted him to the hospital, where he was charged with assaulting the officers. The charge was later dropped.
Meister is suing the police for violating his civil rights under the American with Disabilities Act. “[T]his incident occurred,” the lawsuit states, “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 Hawthorne Police Department (HPD) 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.”