Four police officers in Hawthorne California are the subjects of lawsuit after they allegedly beat and tasered a man – who was trying to communicate to them via sign language because he is deaf.
According to the lawsuit, filed by the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness, Jonathan Meister was picking up some boxes that he had left at a friend’s house, when a neighbor apparently thought there was a burglary and called the police.
When the officers arrived, they allegedly ordered Meister to stop moving the boxes, but he didn’t understand the order since he’s deaf. Under the impression that he was refusing to comply, one of the officers grabbed Meister by the hand, prompting him to try to communicate by sign language.
Again, interpreting his reaction as resistance, the officers “struck Meister with fists and feet and forcibly took him to the ground,” and then allegedly shot him twice with a taser. Another officer then applied a “drive stun” to Meister’s abdomen.
The officers continued to beat Meister until he was unconscious – and then escorted him to the hospital. He was charged with assault, but the charge was later dropped.
“[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 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.”