Police Abuse

Cops Interpreted Sign Language as Threat, Handcuffed, Used Stun Gun, and Beat Deaf Man, Lawsuit Alleges

Hawthorne, California


beat by cops
via CBS LA

A lawsuit filed in California against the city of Hawthorne and its police department alleges that last February local cops confronting a deaf man who was picking up his stuff from an ex-roommate's back porch interpreted his attempt to communicate with them via sign language as a threat, handcuffed him, beat him up, and then took him to the police station. Jonathan Meister is suing with the Disability Rights Legal Center. CBS Los Angeles reports:

The South Bay man claims officers didn't give him a chance to explain what he was doing before placing him in handcuffs, beating him and using a stun gun to shock him into submission.

The problem began when police reportedly misunderstood Meister's attempts to speak in sign language as threatening gestures.

Moreover, officers didn't realize that when they handcuffed Meister, who is "profoundly deaf" and non-verbal, they took away his ability to communicate.

Police initially charged Meister with assaulting officers, but those charges were dropped. A police statement insisted it was "the person's behavior and actions who we contact that dictate police response rather than the communication barriers present".

Last week, Leon Rosby, whose dog Hawthorne police shot last year in an incident partially caught on video also filed suit against the city and three of the cops involved.

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  1. He looks guilty to me.

    1. Well of course he’s guilty. They arrested him, didn’t they?

  2. I am baffled as to how in the hell Ameslan can be perceived as threatening.

    1. I blame LARP.


    2. I guarantee you they didn’t think it was threatening, they thought it was some sort of disrespectful gesture like flipping the bird. “Threatening” is their go-to excuse for anything. Deaf guy doesn’t respond fast enough, and then makes some unclear gestures? Beat his ass. Then charge him with assaulting an officer. Because he didn’t properly respect their authoritah.

      1. Here’s a simple thought experiment: How many times have we seen this “threatening” behavior result in perp-caused cop injury? About zero except for those times when some hard-case really does do something threatening like whip off his shirt, shout “I’m’na kick your ass”, and proceeds to do so.

        In fact, with wearable camera technology it should be extremely easy to compile a list of behaviors that are actually threatening and then we can just fire everyone who ends up causing physical harm to people who don’t meet those criteria.

        1. Fire? Ha! That’s good! Maybe give them some paid training after a paid vacation! Fire? Yeah right.

    3. Similar thing happened to autistic man served by one of my clients. When he didn’t respond to the cops in the desired manner, they tased him and roughed him up pretty good. Instead of being charged, dismissed, suspended without pay or even sent to anger management class, NOTHING ELSE HAPPENED.

      Since this was SPD, they probably then went home, logged into HnR and bragged about banging Morgan Fairchild.

  3. Police initially charged Meister with assaulting officers

    He bruised their knuckles with his face. Bastard!

  4. Maybe google can help me, now I’m curious if there’s a site out there like the debt clock that tallies up how much californians have paid in police abuse settlements.

    1. You can measure Chicago’s by how much they have to borrow to pay off their suits….$100 million in bonds go out for sale just for police brutality suit funding.

      1. And didn’t they run out of the year’s worth of money in March or April last year?

  5. The silver lining in all these cops gone wild stories of late: they are starting to get hit where it really hurts, the local budgets via the lawsuits/settlements. Hopefully, the consequence of this militarization and over the top violence will be to bleed them financially until they have no choice but to rethink their policies.

    …or they’ll just double down, pick up a few more MRAPs, get a bailout from the feds and really ratchet us down.

    1. I dream of the day the State of FL starts rejecting qualified immunity relief bills. Agencies and localities are always on the hook for the first $200k, and then the Legislature passes appropriations to compensate victims above that amount. I’d love to see them start rejecting some. “Nope. You hired these guys, you pay for their damage.”

      1. I’ve said it in other threads, but part would love to see the cops dragged kicking and screaming from their houses, as the houses go on the auction block to pay for the settlements. Preferably, the cops would be dragged out in full view of their terrorized children.

        (Yes, I know the last part definitely is unlibertarian.)

        1. Well, I guess they could personally insure themselves against such judgments to prevent that outcome. I’d be okay with that. If they could afford the insurance.

        2. Making it clear that your family will suffer right along with you? Unlibertarian perhaps, but surely effective.

  6. Trying to explain your actions, especially with sign language, is just more evidence of the war on cops. If this guy wasn’t at war with cops, he would have immediately gotten down on the ground and started licking their boots. That’s what Tulpa does, and he has yet to be beaten.

    1. Kicked and cuffed, but never beaten.

  7. Deaf dude’s ass isn’t gonna kick itself.

    Hope he learned his lesson – but apparently not, since he’s suing. I see some no-knock visits and comments re: “furtive gestures” in his future.

    1. He shoulda greased himself up. Then he could have slipped out of their grasp and run down the street naked.

  8. Deaf dude’s ass isn’t gonna kick itself.

    Hope he learned his lesson – but apparently not, since he’s suing. I see some no-knock visits and comments re: “furtive gestures” in his future.

  9. Deaf dude’s ass isn’t gonna kick itself.

    Hope he learned his lesson – but apparently not, since he’s suing. I see some no-knock visits and comments re: “furtive gestures” in his future.

    1. Deaf dude’s ass isn’t gonna kick itself.

      Okay, I lol’d the first time, but unfortunately not the 2nd/3rd.

    2. Did the three o’clock squirrels teach you a lesson?

  10. They were just trying to beat some hearing into him. Like fixing a cross-eyed kid by having a mule kick him in the face again.

    You guys are always so negative.

  11. A police statement insisted it was “the person’s behavior and actions who we contact that dictate police response rather than the communication barriers present”.

    Of course, I mean after all, he was waving his hands around like one a ‘dem eyetalians. And everyone knows what temper them wop’s got. We thought he was seconds away from goin’ all berserker like on us. Screamin’ ‘I WANT CAKE!’

  12. Procedures were followed.

  13. SQUIRREL ATTACK!! Oh, 3:00 – right…

  14. Did the bother yelling, “Stop resisting!”

  15. I hope now they will be trained in sign language. And maybe common sense? Naw..

  16. Office safety is key…this obviously a rarity and if not we just need more officer training etc etc

  17. I would love to see a study cops’ scores on empathy tests. Pretty sure it would confirm a preponderance of sociopath cops that can’t understand human emotion or recognize emotions in facial expressions. Or worse, their are a lot of pervert cops that get off on causing others pain.

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