Deaf Woman Calls Police Who Tell Her To Come Outside And Then Taser Her and Jail Her For Not Responding To Commands

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.

White repeatedly warned the dispatcher “I’m deaf. I can’t hear if they’re out front knocking or whatever . . . ”

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.

Source: KiroTVDeaf

56 thoughts on “Deaf Woman Calls Police Who Tell Her To Come Outside And Then Taser Her and Jail Her For Not Responding To Commands”

  1. Shano,

    Well, the supreme court says strip searches are fair game. These guys just didn’t bother to take her in first.

    As frightened and humiliated as she must have been, those kids must have been terrified. Was the car w/ A/C running? Dangerous with kids in the car. or were they left to roast? July tends to be a bit on the warm side in FL.

  2. What TF is going on in Florida anyway? A strip search for rolling a stop sign? Leaving babies alone in cars? Pulling out female sanitary tampons?

    Darren, I think it is gang mentality. The thin blue line may have helped in the past but now it is way out of hand. The cops are acting like armed gangs of thugs these days, badly screened and trained and then given military style weapons they think are ‘non lethal’ or appropriate for use on civilians outside a war zone:

  3. Let’s be honest here, we have an epidemic of police brutality in this country. We’ve been declaring war on this and that for decades, and lots of young men with inadequacy issues join the police ranks as a way to assuage these feelings by beating, abusing and otherwise wielding power over the powerless. Add to that the huge numbers of police on steroids and we have a huge problem. Time to start de funding.

  4. David:

    I fully understand what you said about incidents getting out of hand. I have noticed that it is usually not the major crimes or incidents that cause these problems, it is the Small Stuff that can get out of hand and go way beyond what could be expected. Here in this case, it is certainly an example. A small incident that one bad decision or bad circumstance just mushrooms into a major ordeal. I don’t know why it happens this way but it does.

    I tried to convey to Rookies I trained to not let small incidents get out of hand. But they do, best to just not let your guard down and do what is expected.

    On another matter related to this case. I believe that the officers qould be entitled to Qualified Immunity but their department could be held liable for the woman’s injuries. A training program certainly is in order. I think the department would do good for itself to pay her medical bills and publicly apologize. It’s never too late. Always the right time to do the right thing.

  5. Rickad Contributed:
    “Darren…If you had been a member of the department and knew of the circumstances surrounding this arrest, would you have kept your mouth shut?”

    Yes. This is the simple answer. Now, I have to say I am not to jump the gun and spout off at anything that looks a little awkward but when the line is crossed I have spoken out. When I found out a Sergeant in a local police department committed what was described to me as being a felony assault against a family member, I immediately reported it to my department’s admin. When the other agency attempted to cover it up, I went to the state attorney general’s office and reported it. I requested a spot to speak before this city’s city council. I blew the whistle on the cover up and other issues and demanded an outside agency investigate the what I believed to be a cover-up. The city council did this. The agency recommended the chief be fired from his poition. (this is what I heard from a reliable source) The chief went into retirement, the Officer was charged and he eventually was forced to resign and retire.

    For disclosure purposes I am presently involved in a lawsuit I instigated in this matter.

  6. Everyone:

    I reviewed the police report, the KIRO news article, the 911 tapes and the interview with the woman. I do not have access to any information other than what was provided on the KIRO news article and links thereon. This represents only my opinion as I express it and not necessarily an accusation against any person in particular. Again, it is only my opinion.

    From what I had gathered in the report and the 911 recordings my view is that a mutual combat situation happened between these two women. The assaults alleged on both persons were minor. There did not appear to be a domestic violence situation per statute since there was no mention of a “relationship” in the domestic sense and both actors lived apart, Johnson living at another address. This is important as I will explain later.

    Through the interpreter, who I know try to mimic the emotional delivery of the person in order to convey accurately the translation of emotion due to connotative meaning, White expresses fear and anger toward Johnson. She is more calm when Johnson leaves.

    When the police arrive and begin questioning Johnson the concur that an assault has taken place. The evidence of assault is limited to very minor / minimal injury and complaints of pain.

    When White emerges from the front doors as instructed by the police she then begins to run at the group of the two officers & Johnson. I believe the “grunting” sound was vocalizations from White which according to the news report has been deaf since birth. A person in this condition makes sounds that are much different from speaking people and can be interpreted as grunts. It can be difficult to ascertain meaning unless it involves pain or horror.

    From what White had conveyed she wanted the police to contact Johnson over the incident and had urgency in this request.

    SPECULATION: { I wonder if the so called run that White was alleged to have made toward the group might have been White running to the officers to identify Johnson as the other party. As for the fist, in ASL “Yes” consists of a clenched fist held around shoulder level, knuckles forward and shaking the fist up and down . <== see link for video of this gesture. It is POSSIBLE that White might have been trying to convey this message to the officers. }} /speculation

    In reviewing the Obstructing a LEO charge, it probably had to do with the police alleging the charge and subsequent tasing interfered with their ability to conduct the investigation. I question the solidity of this charge. It would have to be proven the intent of the person charged was to delay or hinder the investigation. I do not agree with this.

    In reviewing the Simple Assault charge. I suspect that their was Reasonable Suspicion to investigate both persons for assault. In Washington State Chapter 10.99 RCW requires in a domestic violence case, the investigating officer SHALL arrest the primary aggressor. The state law, which pre-empts the Tacoma Municipal Code mandates the arrest. RCW defines injury with regard to domestic violence assault to include both the ordinary meaning of injury but also "Pain". This definition causes issues. If pain is alleged, and the statement is credible, the officer in the letter of the law MUST make a domestic violence arrest.

    I noted in the report the officer's statement mentions "Primary Aggressor" as being White. This is convention to identify persons in a Domestic Violence case. It is not convention to mention this in a non-domestic violence assault.

    Now getting back to what I said earlier about the address issue. IF both persons did not have a "relationship / romance " or co-habitated or are related there is no Domestic Violence triggering event. The arrest would not be mandatory. Interestingly the Primary aggressor was mentioned as if it was.

    From one paragraph in the report both persons denied later that they had hit each others. I did not see any written statements. If it is not a DV situation and it appears that neither party will pursue charges or cooperate in court it is common for prosecutors to drop cases based upon this situation. Since it did not include a Domestic Violence situation, the "Pain" element is not satisfied. The case would not hold up in trial and the prosecutor probably dropped it. I believe this was at the crux of the assault charge. The prosecutor probably did not see success in convition for the obstructing charge.

    I believe also their is a disjoint between the reporting of the charges being dropped and the fact the person was deaf and tased. I think this relates only to the above mentioned issues as reviewed possibly by a prosecutor and not related to the tasing and any cover-up wit hit.

    As for the Reasonableness of the Use of the Taser. Given the fact that the police saw the woman, not carrying any weapons, her size, and that two officers were present. I do not see an imminent need to deploy the Taser GIVEN THE ENVIRONMENT.. By the officer's statements, White was running toward them and the other evidence was that she was on a driveway/sidewalk. Standard training for that situation and environment would dictate the high probability of the person receiving a substantial injury from being locked up by the taser and hitting the pavement as she did. Had there been more of an actual threat by white, such as having a knife or club or extreme mental derangement, it would mitigate the use of Taser for a running person on pavement. In my view the use of the Taser on her, given two officers, her size, no weapons, and weighed with the potential injury that could happen to her. I do not agree the use of the Taser was appropriate regardless of the intent of White. Ordinary blocking or restraint , if necessary, would have been more appropriate.

    As was mentioned by other contributors if this constituted Deprivation of Civil Rights under Color of Law Title 42 USC Section 1983. I do not blelieve this would pass the standards required to survive a Summary Judgement. A civil tort in the ordinary sense could be levyed in my view.

    Again, this is just my opinon.

  7. File the lawsuit. Take the cops depostion and the deposition of the cop’s mother.
    Ask the cop if a Taser is a deadly weapon. Simple question. If yes then whey did you use deadly force. If no, then here let me tase you and your mom if this thing is simply a Leo device for stopping people from talking.
    Depose the police chief and ask him where they bought the Taser weapon and what the use of a Taser is for. Ask him if its a deadly weapon.
    If its not a deadly weapon then buy some from the proceeds of the jury verdict and distribute them on the street to deaf people so that they can defend themselves and ask questions later when they see some dumb Leo coming at em. Leo, Leo, bo bebo, bannana fanna fo me o. Leo. [The Name Game]

    We need to have some big jury verdicts for Taser assaults. Ok dumb lawyers in Tacoma. Here is what you plead: assault with a deadly weapon. 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. There is a book with cobwebs on it in your federal courthouse law library that contains the statute and all of the annotations (summaries of court cases). I would go out there to file the case for the lady but they wouldnt let me through the airport with my Taser. If they are not a deadly weapon then we all should have one.

  8. If you cruise the Interwebs you can find these kinds of egregious stories every day- every day. The police in this country are entirely out of control.

  9. parink, Come on. Isn’t that going a bit overboard? How about loss of job, loss of respect in the community, maybe some jail time and facing a civil lawsuit? Inflicting violence on others just perpetuates violence.

  10. No it doesn’t need to be investigated. The two cops need a red hot poker shoved two feet up their asses.

  11. If an ADA complaint is filed and the Feds agree the incident requires investigation it will cost the city a lot of money. And if the investigation determines the officers involved colluded at any step in the process a prison sentence is likely under a related prosecution.

    Then there is the civil suit.

    No wonder the department is declining to comment.

  12. I forgot the quote from the act:

    “In crafting this law, however, Congress recognized
    that it had to balance the need for a judicial review
    process for domestic surveillance against the
    government’s need to freely conduct surveillance
    overseas. It accomplished that objective by clearly
    distinguishing between surveillances directed against
    persons located within the United States–where
    constitutional protections apply–and those directed
    against persons outside the United States, where the
    fourth amendment does not apply. It then imposed the
    court approval requirement on surveillances directed
    against persons within the United States and left the
    Intelligence Community free to surveil overseas targets
    without the undue burden of court process.

  13. Darren, I have had 100s of dogs charge me in 34 years of delivering mail. I am better at evaluating them today than in my 1st year, but I am no expert yet, and I still have to guess at times. Dogs can be dangerous, but humans can be deadly. I abandoned all plans to be a police officer in my youth and today I believe I most likely would have quit early if I had chose that path. I think it is one of the most difficult jobs in the Country.
    In this scenario, is it possible that this woman was paniced frightened and in fear of harm. She saw the officers and in her panic ran to them for safety. She did not take the time (due to her ordeal) to consider the officers reaction to her actions. I can not place blame on her in this type of situation. I do believe if this was repeated 100 times there would be many ways this would be handled. I think this incident can make a great training film.
    I will cast my judgement this way. After she was tazed and the officers learned of the situation,… Why OH WHY didn’t they offer her medical attention if necessary and offer profound apology.
    The tazing I imagine would not happen in all simulations. But the way she was treated afterwards (to me) speaks of abominable disregard for this womans understandable panic. That is where I find Tremendous fault with this police procedure.
    PS how did they write a report for the initial crime they were called to the scene in the first place. ….. CYA causes too many problems to be ignored,
    CYA causes too many members of the community to distrust the police.
    I recognize the many complete liars and low value humans the police have to deal with, but misevaluating a situation, then admitting it, should be a practice for the law enforcement community when it happens.
    The public can be very ignorant about many things, they are not always right, neither are police officers.
    PSS. I think this is the main reason I chose NOT to go into law enforcement. There is a potential for a cluster at every scene.

  14. Nowhere in the article does the investigative reporter mention where he first heard about this arrest. It could well have been a tip from within the police department.

  15. Can someone give me a reason why they should not be terminated as demonstrating incapability to assume the responsibility of a LEO?

    I don’t know the routine….but it seems obvious to me the need for this measure. (Eventual gun licenses should be revoked)

  16. Darren, The full article says that the cops were told repeatedly that the woman was deaf. Even if it was the suspect that was coming at him with her hands in full view, was the taser appropriate? The suspect could also have been deaf.

  17. *Darren Smith

    Reviewed 911 tapes and communications between dispatch and officers indicate that the woman’s deafness was fully communicated to officers before they arrived on the scene. Six minutes was the time between 911 call and officers arrival..

    Statements from witnesses also show that the officers were told she was deaf as they were drawing down on her. Various witnesses also state the Officer Koskovich yelled stop as she was running towards him but did not raise his hand to signal stop.

    Since no other arrest was made at that time by either officer, it is assumed that the person attacking the deaf woman, the person she was running from, escaped.

    For color I’m going to add that Officer Koskovich weighs 280 lbs and the deaf woman weighs 120 lbs according to police documents.

    From your comments above I get the impression that you do not approve of what took place. My next question is sincerely asked with respect. If you had been a member of the department and knew of the circumstances surrounding this arrest, would you have kept your mouth shut?

  18. In my former career, about every five or six months I would deal with a deaf person in one capacity or another, mostly traffic stops, less frequenty when they reported crimes, and very rarely where they were suspected of a crime.

    From my experience from about 5 or 10 seconds at the most it is obvious they are deaf. One is the hand gestures they make, the other is when they do speak there is a characteristic tone of their voice that seems to be with most all of them. I don’t know if the dispatcher relayed to the responding officers the person is deaf, which might have have been slighly more mitigating but certainly a good officer should know this possibility exists for every person they might meet.

    Not having all the facts here, on face value I would wonder why there was such the quick dash to the Taser. But if the report was that an aggravated assault was taking place it would ratchet things up a bit with regard to what the police will do. If the police would have tased the suspect in this case it likely would not have arisen to this level of national attention. Regardless if the police were merited in tasing the SUSPECT in this incident would it not stand to reason that a few more moments to ascertain who was who might have prevented this disaster?

    When I was in the early part of this career, we had to watch training movies that where “Shoot / Don’t Shoot” in nature. Typically a scene would follow and you were required to see what action you would take. One scene involved a report of a man with a gun possibly with shots fired walking on some railroad tracks. The scene shows you walking toward a man on the tracks who sees and comes at you. You tell him to stop and put his hands in the air. All he does is waives his hand in a dismissive way and keeps coming at you. He then reaches behind him and quickly pulls his hands in front and holds both hands like he is pointing a handgun at you. It then does a close up where the man thrusts his wallet at you, opening it up to reveal a note that reads “I’m deaf…”

    When I went through that training movie I failed and shot him. That training movie was one I never forgot. Certainly helped later in life.

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