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Deaf Man Sues Over Police Beating, Taser Use

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

A deaf man in California has filed a lawsuit against Hawthorne police after they allegedly used a Taser on him twice and beat him unconscious as a result of his inability to hear their orders.

Jonathan Meister claims officers misunderstood his attempts to communicate via sign language as aggressive hand signals, reports the Daily Breeze.

The lawsuit revolves around the police department's alleged lack of training and protocol to handle situations involving people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Taser Use, Beating Alleged

Meister was removing boxes and bags of snowboarding equipment he stored in the backyard of his friend's home when four cops responded to reports of a burglary. He did not hear the officers' commands to stop loading the boxes, the Daily Breeze reports.

When Meister did turn around and tried to use standard hand signals to communicate, the officers allegedly thought he was being aggressive. One of the cops allegedly punched Meister before shooting him twice with a Taser. Another allegedly gave a "drive stun" to his stomach. The officers then allegedly beat Meister until he passed out, before taking him to a hospital.

Meister is not facing any criminal charges, but he is suing the Hawthorne Police Department.

ADA Violations

The suit, filed last week by the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness, alleges Hawthorne police committed civil rights violations under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and used unnecessary aggression against Meister.

Under the ADA, police officers are required to effectively communicate with those who are deaf or hard of hearing. That may include using an interpreter, lip reading, auxiliary aids and services, or other means of communication, according to the Department of Justice.

In general, if an individual who does not have a hearing disability would be subject to police action without interrogation, then an interpreter will not be required, unless one is necessary to explain the action being taken, according to the DOJ.

The lawsuit claims Hawthorne police failed "to provide effective communication to deaf and hard of hearing individuals, including himself, who come into contact and interact with the police, thereby discriminating against them," the Breeze reports.

According to the suit, the police department's failure to serve deaf or hearing-impaired criminal suspects -- through officer training, policy, protocol, and resources -- is in large part what led to the alleged excessive force and Meister's false arrest.

Hawthorne police declined to comment on the lawsuit, the Daily Breeze reports.

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