A deaf California man is suing police in Hawthorne after he was tasered while attempting to tell them that he couldn’t hear by using sign language.
According to reports, Jonathan Meister was retrieving boxes he left at a friend’s house when a suspicious neighbor thought he was breaking in and called the police.
When officers arrived, they found Meister with the boxes and ordered him to stop loading them into his car. Obviously, Meister was unable to hear what the officers were telling him to do, so when one of them grabbed his hand, he tried to sign to them that he was deaf.
The officers took Meister’s signing as resistance, so they hit him with their fists and kicked him until they were able to force him to the ground. Once they had him on the ground, one of the officers reportedly shot Meister with the taser twice before shooting him with it again in the stomach.
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“Because he is deaf, Mr. Meister depends on using his hands while facing a person to communicate,” describes the lawsuit. "The officers’ sudden aggression, which both caused pain and interfered with his ability to communicate, caused Mr. Meister reflexively to pull his hands away, hop back over the fence and step toward the gate to create some space so that he could communicate.”
The officers continued to beat Meister until he was knocked unconscious, and only then was he brought to the hospital. Meister was shockingly charged with assaulting the officers, but after the truth came out later, those charges were dropped.
Now, the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness has filed the lawsuit on behalf of Meister in the wake of the ordeal.
“We’re really concerned about the problem of law enforcement and people who are deaf,” said Paula Pearlman, Meister’s lawyer. “He wasn’t doing anything other than trying to get away from people who were hurting him.”
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The charges filed are specifically against the four officers who were involved in the assault. Hawthorne police have not yet commented on the case.