November 10, 2010

Taser Lawsuit: Linda Hicks (Toledo, OH)

I was glad to see that a lawsuit has been filed against the City of Toledo, the Toledo Police Department and TPD Officer Diane Chandler for their involvement in the taser electrocution of 62-year old Linda HicksVillagers may recall that Ms. Hicks was fatally shot by Officer Chandler on December 14, 2009 at Marria's Adult Family Home.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio by Charles Boyk, Esq. against the following parties: the City of Toledo (for violation of civil rights and wrongful death); the Toledo Police Department (for violation of civil rights and wrongful death); Officer Diane Chandler, in her individual capacity (for violation of civil rights, gross negligence, assault, battery and wrongful death); and Marria’s Adult Family Home (for negligence and wrongful death).

Ms. Hicks was, at the time of her death, a 5’2”, 62-year-old woman who suffered from schizophrenia and a heart condition that required a pacemaker. She was a resident at Marria’s Adult Family Home.  Police were summoned to that location because Ms. Hicks was reported to be agitated and holding a pair of craft scissors in her room.

Crisis police were requested, but Officer Chandler and another officer, who were not crisis police officers, responded to the scene. Disregarding their lack of proper training with crisis situations and with the mentally ill, Marria’s Adult Family Home allowed the officers to approach Ms. Hicks with weapons drawn.

When the officers arrived at her room, Ms. Hicks was laying facedown on her bed with her hands under her pillow. She was asked to show her hands, and when she did not comply the officers proceeded to Taser her twice (without regard to her pacemaker). After the second shock, Ms. Hicks got out of bed and approached the two officers with the craft scissors in her hand.

At this point, Officer Chandler and the other officer successfully exited the bedroom into the hallway. For a moment, both officers were in the hallway while Ms. Hicks was still in her room. The second officer descended down nearby stairs and exited the scene, while Officer Chandler chose to remain in the hallway. As Ms. Hicks approached Officer Chandler, the officer proceeded to shoot and kill Ms. Hicks.

The lawsuit claims that this sad situation was wholly avoidable. Ms. Hicks was not given her proper medication by Marria’s Adult Family Home; if she had received her medication the scenario could likely have been avoided. The home also allowed Ms. Hicks to have access to the scissors and allowed non-crisis police officers to attempt to diffuse the situation.

I think that it may take lawsuits like this one to get police departments to take more proactive approaches to taser training.  Perhaps if the police have to pay the steep costs of lawsuits they will think twice before using their taser guns for convenience rather than for protection against immediate danger.

After all, how dangerous could a 5'2'' elderly woman with a pair of scissors actually be to trained police officers?

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