For the second time this month, police officers are being sued for tasering a deaf man. The latest incident comes out of the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, where officers tasered a man having a diabetic attack.
On February 21, 2012 deaf man Robert Kim pulled off the road with a flat tire. In addition to being deaf, Kim suffers from type one diabetes. While waiting for roadside assistance to arrive, he fell into a hypoglycemic state. Officer Leah Hall was the first officer to arrive at the scene.
Kim claims Hall became immediately aware he was deaf. He said he also told Officer Hall multiple times he was in diabetic shock. Instead of calling an ambulance to help, Hall called for police backup. Officer Brandin Raney arrived shortly after.
Kim was sitting in a grassy area when Raney arrived. Raney claims Officer Hall never told him that Kim was deaf or in diabetic shock. Kim claims Raney quickly became angry at him. Here’s what he did next.
"Unable to effectively communicate with plaintiff, defendant Raney fired his Taser at plaintiff, striking plaintiff in the chest," the complaint states. "Plaintiff immediately fell to the ground. Defendant Raney continued to apply repeated electrical shocks through the Taser, even after plaintiff was on the ground.”
The complaint says Raney struck Kim as well.
"Defendant Raney also struck plaintiff repeatedly while plaintiff was on the ground and handcuffed plaintiff while plaintiff was on the ground. Upon information and belief, plaintiff was Tasered by defendant Raney at least three times, one of which was while plaintiff was handcuffed,” the complaint says.
Kim’s lawsuit is filed against Officer Leah Hall, Officer Brandin Raney, and the city of Bridgeton. He seeks actual and punitive damages for violations of his civil rights, the Americans with Disabilities Act, battery, and infliction of emotional distress.
"Defendant Bridgeton is mandated to provide aid and services to those individuals with disabilities such as plaintiff," the complaint states. "Plaintiff was discriminated against by not being provided with medical services, but instead was subjected to an unlawful battery and detainment as a result of the failure of defendants."
Earlier this month, California resident Jonathan Meister filed a similar lawsuit after he was tasered and beat unconscious by police. Meister claims police took violent action against him after interpreting his sign language attempts as resistance.
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.
“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.”
The charges filed are specifically against the four officers who were involved in the assault. Hawthorne police have not yet commented on the case.
A 9-year-old Seahawks fan touched hearts across the U.S. after she wrote a letter to deaf running back Derrick Coleman, calling him an inspiration.
Riley Kovalcik wrote the note after she and her sister watched a Duracell ad featuring Coleman and his journey to become the first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL. Kovalcik, who is also legally deaf, felt a connection to Coleman.
“I where (sic) two hearing aids. I love sports. Other things are I'm a identical twin and my twin where's (sic) one hearing aid too!”
The girls’ father, Jake, tweeted a picture of the letter to Coleman. When the Seahawks got a hold of it, Mr. Kovalcik’s phone was flooded with messages and return tweets.
The father of three laughed as he recalled the two girls watching over his phone, in awe that the letter had gone viral.
Mr. Kovalcik added that all he wanted was to show Coleman how much he had impacted his girls, and noted that Coleman is important to every child with a disability.
“He's showing all kids that if you work hard and you dedicate yourself whatever deficiencies you have, you can be great,” Mr. Kovalcik said of Coleman. “I wanted to thank him.”
The federal government helped build the apartment complex in Arizona that was designed to provide affordable housing for the deaf. Now, the government believes it’s discriminatory.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development spent $2.6 million to help build the Apache ASL Apartments in Tempe, Ariz., because it helped the deaf, according to KSAZ. However, that same federal agency now says the complex is guilty of discriminating against people who are not deaf -- and is demanding 75 percent of the units be rented to those who are not disabled.
Fox News reports that a federal study in 2005 found that the U.S. had virtually no affordable housing for the deaf. So the federal government helped build the 75-unit apartment building designed specifically for the deaf and 90 percent of the units are currently occupied by deaf and deaf-blind seniors.
HUD is threatening to pull all federal housing aid to Arizona unless it limits the number of hearing-impaired residents to 18 people. The agency would not forcibly remove current residents, but wants many of their units to be blocked off to deaf residents in the future once they leave.
"I think it's about the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a while," Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake told Fox News. "There are a lot of stories of out-of-control regulators, but this just seems to be going to the extreme."
Residents of the apartment complex have expressed their concerns and fears.
"I would be devastated. I would cry. I want to stay here, we need this place," resident Rose Marie Prynce said to KSAZ.
State housing director Michael Trailor has refused to comply with the federal orders. State taxpayers and the apartment's developer have spent $500,000 so far fighting HUD.
Disability advocates will soon be celebrating a big accomplishment with an Obama administration proposal that will require movie theaters to offer technology so people who are blind and deaf can go to see a movie.
The proposal, which started at the Justice Department’s civil rights division a few years ago, is expected to reach the White House for final approval soon. The policy will force movie theaters to install audio narration and closed-captioning technology in order to adapt to blind and deaf customers.
Justice Department lawyer Eve Hill said during testimony to the Senate back in May that people with disabilities deserve to be able to participate in the same things that everyone else does, and this will make sure that happens.
“Movies are part of our shared cultural experience,” said Hill. “When individuals with sensory disabilities have the opportunity to attend movies that they can actually understand through the use of captions or audio description, they are exposed to new ideas and gain knowledge that contributes to their social development.”
Many theater owners, however, fear that this will put them out of business, as the cost of the technology is reported to be as much $70,000 per screen.
"These theaters can barely stay in existence and often need community support to break even,” said The National Association of Theater Owners in a comment to the Justice Department. “To require them to install expensive closed captioning technology at this time is an undue financial burden that may result in these theaters closing.”
Still, disability advocates say that the time has come for people with disabilities to be able to do the same things as people without.
“The National Association of the Deaf believes strongly that all deaf and hard of hearing people should have equal access to all services in society available to everyone else,” said NAD chief executive Howard Rosenblum. “It would be akin to only requiring that 50% of buses should have segregation for people of color and the other 50% of buses should be integrated. We believe that providing equal services is a civil rights that should apply to all theaters and not just a fraction.”
The policy is expected to be enacted soon.
Deaf concertgoers can experience performances in a whole new way thanks to the signing skills of Holly Maniatty. Maniatty, a certified American Sign Language interpreter from Portland, Maine, is able to follow along with the lyrics of each artist’s music during a concert.
“Interpretation comes quickly and easily to me,” Maniatty, 32, told GoodMorningAmerica.com, of her ability to sign freestyle rap artists or jam bands fast-paced lyrics. “I have a knack for processing language quickly.”
In order to prep for each show and the different performance styles of each artist, Maniatty, who has been an interpreter for 13 years, does careful research.
“[I research] where they grew up, where they were born, what their background is, what political affiliations they have publicly – that’s important because it usually bleeds into their music,” Maniatty said. “I do research on each song.”
She not only researches the band and song, but she also watches as many taped performances of the artists as she can so she can understand how they move and embody each artist’s unique style while she signs.
“We’re being the performer as much as possible in the interpretation, so it’s as authentic as possible,” she said. “[I reflect] however they move their body or gesticulate.”
Maniatty has been an interpreter at the concerts of headlining artists such as Phish, Wu-Tang Clan and Bruce Springsteen.
“I strive to look at each artist and musician as their own person. It’s their life’s work,” she said. “I feel a strong commitment to render that in ASL as authentically as possible.”
Maniatty’s recent signing performance at a Wu-Tayng Clan concert went viral on YouTube and has gained her national attention, reports ABC News.
As Maniatty has gained popularity and her services become more widely known, larger deaf audiences have started coming out to enjoy the concerts.
“I’m just really excited the word’s going to get out there,” she said.
Source: ABC News
Photo: John Ewing/The Portland Press Herald