Lashonn White is a deaf woman in Tacoma, Washington who recently used a special typing machine to call police to tell them that she was being attacked. Within six minutes police were in front of her door. White was then told to come outside by police and then tasered and thrown to the ground. She was jailed for three days because the police could not find an interpreter. I am not sure why the police did not have a simple special video-equipped phone (like the one in White’s home) or why the basic facts could not be established through writing.
The encounter occurred on April 6th after White used a machine with a certified American Sign Language interpreter on the other end who conveyed information to the dispatcher. White conveyed the following information: “Please hurry! There’s a person here beating me up. . . . Right now! This is serious! . . .She’s fighting at me, then she chokes me. She’s coming right at me!”
Tacoma police officer Ryan Koskovich and his partner, Michael Young, responded and were told that the victim was Lashonn White and that she was deaf.
The investigative reporter below found that Koshovich tased her “within seconds” of her running out of front door. She said she had her hands in the air when she was hit and handcuffed.
We have previously seen police taser deaf individuals for failing to respond to commands.
The two officers filed virtually identical accounts. Koshovich insisted that White would not respond even to his yelling to stop and “ignored my commands.” He also said “White was making a loud grunting noise, had a piercing stare in her eyes and had a clenched right fist in the air.” A piercing stare? I fail to see how — even ignoring that you were told that she is deaf — not responding to commands and having a fist in the air is sufficient cause to taser a woman . . . even one with a piercing stare. There are two fully grown men at the scene to handle this one woman.
The officers proceeded to charge White with simple assault and obstruction of a public servant (law enforcement officer). It took three days before prosecutors elected to drop the charges.
This is obviously a matter that needs to be closely investigated. It is not just the escalation of the encounter with the use of the taser, but the failure to deal appropriately with a deaf individual, the failure to have sufficient interpreters or machines at the jail (in a major metropolitan area), and the filing of charges found to be without sufficient basis.
While we have not heard the officers’ response to these allegations, the fact that she was not prosecuted for assault is telling. Those are charges that are rarely dropped if the individual also actively obstructed police. If there was no assault, the charge magnifies the alleged abusive response by the officers.