A federal lawsuit has been filed against Hamilton County (Ohio) Sheriff deputies by John Harmon, a diabetic who was suffering from dangerously low sugar levels when he was allegedly tasered and “violently dragged from the vehicle, thrown on the ground, kicked in the head by a boot, and stomped mercilessly while lying on his back.”
Harmon says he was experiencing a medical emergency when he was pulled over. An African American, he suggests that he was driving through a white neighborhood.
Accused in the October 2009 incident are four officers. Harmon says he was pulled over for weaving and Patrol Officer Ryan Wolf “approached Harmon’s vehicle with his gun drawn along with a second patrol officer, Matthew Wissel.” Harmon alleges that Wolf shattered his driver side window without giving him an opportunity to comply with his order to get out of the vehicle. He says that he was tasered by Wissel and pulled by the officers, including Officer John Haynes from the vehicle. Wissel cut Harmon’s seatbelt to get him out and Harmon claims he was “violently dragged from the vehicle, thrown on the ground, kicked in the head by a boot, and stomped mercilessly while lying on his back. In the process, Harmon suffered numerous injuries, including a severely dislocated elbow and trauma to his shoulder and thumb. During the course of these events, which lasted approximately two minutes and twenty seconds, he was Tased seven times.”
In all, he claims to have been tasered seven times. When an officer arrived at the scene and saw his diabetic kit, he was asked if he was a diabetic and the officers then called paramedics. It was later confirmed that Harmon’s blood sugar was dangerously low.
This complaint also includes an allegation that, at the hospital, Patrol Officer Shawn Cox refused to let Harmon use the bathroom, which forced him to urinate on himself. He was then charged with “(1) failure to comply with an order or signal of a police officer; (2) resisting arrest; (3) operating his vehicle with only one headlight; and (4) failure to drive in a marked lane.”
I expect that the police will argue that the low blood sugar might have been the result of the physical trauma and stress of the arrest. Strenuous exercise can sometimes pose a danger for diabetics. Thus, they could claim that the weaving was not the result of diabetes and that the low sugar was the result of the arrest. Even with the diabetes, weaving would be a legitimate basis to pull over the car, but the response to a person going into diabetic shock would not normally include repeated tasers.
They would still have to address the need for such extreme levels of force. Of course, there are at least five officers who will be available to testify as witnesses for the county and there is no indication of a dashcam video, which probably would not show the action in the interior of Harmon’s car anyway. However, it would show how quickly the police resorted to smashing the window and using the first taser.