While investigating a burglary, four police officers beat a deaf man until he became unconscious.
The Hawthorne Police Department (HPD) hit Jonathan Meister with a stunt gun, shocked him with a taser and beat him until he ended up in the hospital claiming that they mistook the deaf man’s efforts to communicate as aggressive hand signals.
The Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness is filing a lawsuit on behalf of 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, with his friend’s consent, when the four officers, notified by a neighbor to a possible burglary, arrived.
“They ended up grabbing his arms and turning him around, and if you do that to a deaf person, it’s like gagging them,” his lawyer John Burton told the Daily News on Tuesday. “It would be like if I put my hand over your mouth and you’re trying to tell me something.”
Meister also reflexively pulled his arms away and jumped over a small fence to create space so he could better communicate, but officers took that as an act of aggression as well.
Meister is suing the police for violating his civil rights under the American with Disabilities Act. “This 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 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 HPD released a statement to NBC regarding the incident.
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