Police Defend Taser Use On Deaf Man
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 24, 2006
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON--Seattle Police are defending the actions of officers that fired Taser stun guns several times into an innocent deaf man who had failed to follow their verbal orders.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Bob Ross, 56, arrived early at his workplace on the morning of July 29. When he found the door was still closed, Ross sat down on the ledge of a planter in front of the store to wait for the owner to open it.
Officer Yvonne Tovar saw Ross try to open the door, and attempt "to hide behind a large planter". Tovar then drew her gun and ordered Ross away from the door.
When Ross did not respond, Tovar believed he was ignoring her. She later reported that he failed to follow her orders to drop some wooden sticks he used for work, and instead raised them up and came quickly toward her.
Tovar put her gun in its holster, then drew her Taser and fired two darts into Ross, delivering 50,000-volts into his body. But Ross pulled out the darts and ran away, as Tovar called for backup.
Before the incident was over, Ross was jolted four separate times from Tasers, and was finally restrained and handcuffed by a total of four officers.
They didn't realize until later that Ross was deaf and could not hear their orders.
Still, department officials are saying the use of force in this case was entirely appropriate.
In reviewing the incident, one supervisor wrote the incident could have been avoided if Ross had remained calm: "The officers had no way of knowing the suspect was deaf and mute and the suspect apparently was unable to communicate that to the officers."
But Ross' friends said the whole thing could have been avoided if officers had recognized that his inability to follow orders had to do with his disability.
Sacha Davis, who is with Ross' guardianship service, said they are looking into ways of preventing future incidents like this.
"We just want to make sure that this doesn't happen to anybody else again," Davis said. "This isn't the first time that somebody with a disability was mistaken for somebody who was committing a crime."
"Taser use on deaf man defended" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)