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In the Media

article imageTacoma police Taser deaf assault victim who called 911 for help

Tacoma - Tacoma police officers mistakenly Tasered and arrested a deaf woman who had called 911 for help while being assaulted in her home.
KIRO 7 reports that Lashonn White dialed 911 while she was being attacked by another woman in her apartment on April 6. White, who has been deaf since birth, used a special video phone hooked up to a TV and a webcam to call for help; a certified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter then relayed her situation and whereabouts to a Tacoma police dispatcher.
"Right now! This is serious," White can be heard pleading in a recording of her 911 call.
"I said please hurry, there's a person beating me up," White told KIRO 7 in an interview last month.
"She's fighting me, she chokes me," White says in the 911 call. "She's coming right at me!"
Tacoma police officers Ryan Koskovich and Michael Young rushed to the scene within six minutes. Internal police records obtained by KIRO 7 show that the two officers were repeatedly informed that the victim was deaf. White also said so in her 911 calls.
"I'm deaf. I can't hear if they're out front knocking or whatever," she explained.
The police dispatcher told White they wanted her to go to the front door. She did, but when she opened it and ran out to meet the officers, Koskovich Tased her.
"All I'm doing is waving my hands in the air, and the next thing I know, I'm on the ground and then handcuffed," White told KIRO 7. "It was almost like I blacked out. I was so dizzy and disoriented."
According to witnesses, White's fall left her bleeding heavily from her knuckles. Her face was also swollen after she hit the ground. Photos obtained by KIRO 7 show injuries to White's cheek, chin, ribs, neck and arms.
That wasn't the end of her horrific ordeal. The officers handcuffed and arrested the assault victim and hauled her off to jail.
"The next thing I know, they took me to jail," she told KIRO 7. "Told me to stand up, you're going to jail. I said, 'What? What have I done?' I couldn't figure it out. I had no idea what was going on."
The innocent woman, who has no criminal record, spent the next 60 hours behind bars. She was charged with simple assault and obstruction of a public servant. She was given no access to an interpreter, despite state law requiring the appointment of a qualified interpreter "at the earliest possible time."
White said that although she repeatedly requested an interpreter, none was ever provided.
After spending the better part of three days in jail, a city prosecutor reviewed the incident and requested that no charges be filed against her.
Officers Koskovich and his partner Young submitted nearly identical reports of the incident.
"I yelled for White to 'stop' and held my right hand up to signal for White to stop," he wrote. "White ignored my commands."
"White was making a loud grunting noise, had a piercing stare in her eyes and had a clenched right fist in the air," he added.
Former Bellevue, Washington police chief Don Van Blaricom told KIRO 7 that the officers' reports "were obviously written in concert, after the fact."
"The question to ask yourself is: why would she run at police in an assaultive manner when she had asked for them to be there and was going out to meet them?" he wondered.
"A Taser is a very useful device under circumstances which necessitate its use," Van Blaricom continued, "but it's too easy to use and frequently used too quickly. This looks like one of those cases."
The Lashonn White incident is the latest in a string of recent questionable police use of Tasers. Last Wednesday, police in St. Louis Tased a 12-year-old girl in a Victoria's Secret store while arresting her mother on an outstanding warrant.
Last month, Casselberry, Florida police Tased Zikomo Peurifoy three times after stopping him for jaywalking.
And in June, Chicago police Tased Tiffany Rent, who was eight months pregnant, during a dispute over a parking ticket.
All four of these police Tasing victims, it should be noted, were black.
article:330235:21::0
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