When the police order you to listen up, you’d better listen up. And if you can’t listen up because you’re deaf … well — you’re in for a beating.
That is what happened to an innocent man in Hawthorne, Calif., when he tried to tell police he was deaf by using sign language.
The Raw Story notes that Jonathan Meister was Tased and beaten senseless by Officers Jeffrey Salmon, Jeffrey Tysl, Erica Bristow, and Mark Hultgren. The four were responding to a report of an alleged break-in phoned in by a neighbor who witnessed Meister silently retrieving boxes from a friend’s home.
When the police arrived on the scene, they ordered Meister to stop loading the boxes into his car, but initially his back was turned to them. When one of the officers seized Meister’s hand and spun him around, the frightened Meister began signing wildly in a vain attempt to communicate with the officer. They in turn interpreted his sudden movements as resistance, so they “struck him with fists and feet, and forcibly took him to the ground.”
Once he was down, one of the officers allegedly shot him twice with a Taser. Another then delivered a “drive stun” to Meister’s abdomen. They continued to whale on the prone man 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 Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit, which is being brought on his behalf by the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness, states:
[T]his incident occurred in substantial part because the [Hawthorne Police Department] HPD does not provide its officers the training and resources to serve people who are deaf or hard of hearing. [The HPD fail] 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.
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