Thursday, June 18, 2009

Illinois father sues Peoria, police for Tasering autistic son 12 times

From Peoria Journal-Star:

PEORIA, Ill. — The father of a severely autistic man has sued the city and three police officers for Tasing his son 12 times when they arrested him last December after a disturbance at a Parc group home.

"They used excessive force against someone who was unable to respond to their commands or understand what they were saying," said David Washington Jr., the father of David "Davy" Washington III.

Washington filed suit in Peoria County Circuit Court on Monday naming City Hall and officers Richard Brecklin III, Jacob Bradford and John McCavitt as defendants. The four-count suit seeks unspecified damages.

The elder Washington said his son has severe autism, mental retardation, communication disorder and an anxiety disorder. His IQ was listed as 17 in a 1997 court filing attached to the lawsuit.

On Dec. 3, police were called to the group home, 1329 NE Glen Oak Ave., on a report that Davy Washington, 29, was attacking staff members. His father said a similar situation had occurred before, but it was calmed down relatively quickly.

According to police reports, officers found the main door locked, allegedly by Davy Washington. A staff member let them in and when police confronted the younger Washington, he ran off and refused to comply.

The elder Washington disputes that, saying he spoke to a staff member who said his son was calmed down by the time police arrived and only got agitated when police began to bark commands.

The police report states officers fired their Tasers 12 times before Davy Washington, who is 200 pounds and 5-feet, 10-inches tall, would comply. The father's attorney, Daniel Cusack, notes those 12 Taser shots, each for about five seconds, occurred within an 80-second time frame.

"They never gave him a chance to comply," Cusack said.

A message left at the Peoria Police Department wasn't returned Tuesday.

The suit alleges Bradford and Brecklin discharged their Tasers while McCavitt watched.

The father filed a complaint, and an internal police investigation cleared the officers, noting they acted according to departmental policy.

However, the elder Washington maintains the police still used too much force against his son.

"When they found him, he was bouncing up and down on the bed with his fists clenched. They didn't have to Tase him 12 times," the elder Washington said.

Cusack also is representing Bryce R. Scott, who alleges he was pepper-sprayed, stomped, kicked, Tased and punched after he complied with officers' demands during a police stop after a short chase. The case was initially filed Peoria County Circuit Court but was later moved to U.S. District Court for jurisdictional reasons.