Lawsuit claims deaf woman tackled by police

Posted at: 12/13/2013 10:52 AM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A deaf woman claims an Albuquerque officer tackled her to the ground because she couldn't hear his commands.

Janet Case is completely deaf in one ear and has limited hearing in the other. APD officers were called to her apartment complex because of a dispute between Case and her landlord.

In APD's lapel camera video of the incident, the situation seems to get out of hand when an officer tells Case to come outside. The officer asks Case to turn around, but she says no and tells him she's deaf. The officer then tells Case to get on the ground and she responds "no" again.

That's when the officer takes Case to the ground and begins to handcuff her. The officer tells her, "You've heard everything I said and you've told me 'no' every time I talked to you." Case then responds, "No, I'm deaf."

"That officer was just annoyed that she wouldn't talk to him or couldn't hear him," said Theresa Hacsi, Case's attorney. "It was humiliating for her. It didn't only escalate to her getting tackled on the ground and handcuffed and taken to jail, she got lectured several times like a child."

In the lapel camera video, the officer says: "Your attitude dictates how I treat you. And I want to, for the record, state that you're not--you weren't looking at me just now when you were answering my questions. So you may be hearing impaired or deaf, but you can hear me because you're responding to me as you don't--as you're looking away from me. OK, so please don't use your handicap or anything to play me or pull the wool over someone's eyes."

"It's very insensitive and it's very illegal," Hacsi said. "Every member of our community is entitled to be treated with respect, especially those with disabilities."

APD charged Case with resisting arrest and obstructing justice, but those charges were eventually dropped. There is no evidence Case did anything wrong before police arrived at her home, other than being a noisy neighbor who moved around her furniture too often.

Case has filed a lawsuit against APD claiming the officer used excessive force when bringing her to the ground. Case says she wasn't threatening him and the suit claims she couldn't hear him.

An APD spokeswoman told KOB the department could not comment on the lawsuit because the case is now tied up in court.