Jonathan Meister claims that he was trying to communicate with hand signals to the police to tell them that he was deaf but says they shot him with Taser darts, struck him, and forced him to the ground kicking him as well.
While Meister was picking up clothes and a snowboard at a friend's home on February 13th, a neighbor suspecting a burglary, as Meister's friend was not home, called out to Meister, who being deaf did not respond. The neighbor called the police.
Meister said that he used hand gestures in an attempt to tell the police he was deaf and that he was a friend of the home owner. However, the Hawthorne police have no training in communicating with the deaf or hard of hearing. According to the lawsuit the police "shot Taser darts into Mr. Meister, administered a number of painful electric shocks, struck him with fists and feet, and forcibly took him to the ground," Meister complained that the officers delivered "punishing shocks" deliberately "burning his flesh". Meister was knocked unconscious and taken to a hospital. He was also cited for assaulting the four officers involved but the charges were later dropped.
The charge is against the four officers involved in the assault as well as the Hawthorne Police Department, the City of Hawthorne, and the Police Chief. Hawthorne with a population of 85,000 is part of greater Los Angeles. There have been other lawsuits of this type some involving diabetics in insulin shock whom police have arrested and beat claiming they thought those involved were drunk.
According to an account of the event in the local Daily Breeze when officers arrived they watched Meister carrying his belongings as he walked out the gate. Meistter saw the officers, put down his boxes and gestured to tell them that he could not hear them. As he walked over to them officers were said to have grabbed his wrists and turned him around. Meister's complaint notes that Meister depends upon his hands for communication and he reflexively pulled away, hopped back over the fence and stepped toward the gate so he could communicate. But the officers grappled with Meister to control his arms and handcuff him. Two more officers arrived who helped control Meister. Their reports admit tasering him several times and eventually they were able to flip him on his stomach, sit on him and put on handcuffs. He was never charged with a crime and later was released from jail.
Paula Pearlman, Meister's attorney, told reporters:“We’re really concerned about the problem of law enforcement and people who are deaf,He wasn’t doing anything other than trying to get away from people who were hurting him." In his complaint Meister claims that the attack could have been avoided had Hawthorne trained its officers how to communicate with the deaf and hard of hearing. As shown on the attached image Hawthorne police have also been sued for shooting a dog.