A cop who repeatedly tasered a naked, 64-year-old nursing home patient with Alzheimer’s Disease was fired by the Indiana police department that employed him, and now more than a year later, a court has ruled that the department did the right thing in firing him.
According to court documents, Gregory Martin, a police officer in Peru, Indiana, got a call about a “combative” patient in the Alzheimer’s ward of Miller’s Merry Manor nursing home there. When Martin and his partner, Jeremy Brindle, got there, they found the patient, James Howard, sitting in a chair wearing nothing but socks, staring off into space.
When the officers ordered Howard (at right in picture) onto a gurney, he did not acknowledge them. Instead, he “shuffled” forward toward Brindle with his fists “clenched at his sides” and “blank expression” on his face, records of the case say.
Brindle attempted to handcuff Howard, but the patient pulled one of his wrists away.
At that point, Martin yelled, “taser!” He then shot the patient in the torso with the electronic stun gun. Howard fell to the floor, exhibiting “involuntary movement.” Martin shot him with the taser four more times, stunning the man for a total of 31 seconds.
Howard was already in handcuffs when he was tasered for the fourth and fifth times.
A police review board found that Martin used excessive force and displayed “conduct unbecoming an officer.” The board dismissed him from his job. At the board hearing, nursing home staff said they believed that Howard, though he had indeed been “combative” before police arrived, had calmed down by the time they got there and that using the taser was not necessary.
Brindle also conceded that he could have put Howard in handcuffs without tasering the 64-year-old.
But when a trial court took up the case in December of 2012, the judge found “one hundred reasons” why the board was wrong to fire Martin.
The city appealed and the higher court found “substantial evidence” that the department was right to fire Martin. The appellate court’s opinion also derided the trial court for disregarding evidence that supported Martin’s firing and even giving credit to witnesses who never actually testified.
The incident led to the Indiana legislature passing a law mandating special training for police officers in how to handle people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of demetia.
SOURCES: Indiana Legal News, The Indiana Lawyer, Fox 59 News