Mentally disabled man died in police custody
Melissa Pinion-Whitt and Ryan Hagen, Staff Writers
Posted: 04/12/2011 09:18:00 PM PDT
A federal jury in Los Angeles has awarded $2 million to the family of a mentally disabled man who died in 2009 while in custody of San Bernardino police.
Sheryl Nash, the mother of Terry Wayne Jackson, 22, of San Bernardino, filed a lawsuit against the city in July, claiming her son died due to excessive force by police officers who failed to tend to his medical needs. The suit also named nine police officers and Police Chief Keith Kilmer.
“He was a good boy. He was a gentle giant,” Nash said of her son on Tuesday. “I feel like he’s been waiting, and now that justice is served he can go through (to heaven).”
The eight-member U.S. District Court jury sided with Nash on Monday after deliberating for five hours, a decision that left the city’s private attorney in “utter shock.”
“I think they went with sympathy,” said San Bernardino-based attorney Joseph Arias. “I think they ignored the evidence. I think they felt sorry for Mrs. Nash.”
Jackson died in March 2009 at St. Bernardine Medical Center after police took him into custody. An autopsy determined his cause of death was excited delirium due to an enlarged heart and obesity.
Officers initially went to Seccombe Lake Park at Fifth Street and Sierra Way on a report of a man who appeared to be exposing himself.
Jackson, also known as Terry Wayne Nash, suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was under the influence of methamphetamine and marijuana, authorities said.
He reportedly asked officers if they could “see the dragons.”
In the suit, his mother’s attorney, Woodland Hills- based Dale K. Galipo, wrote that Jackson was detained for no reason.
Officers “tackled (Jackson), who was obviously experiencing a psychiatric emergency,” according to the suit.
Two officers tried to grab Jackson by his arms when he reportedly began swinging at them, but the officers said they had difficulty because Jackson was 6 feet tall and weighed 250 pounds.
A third officer used a Taser stun gun on him three times, but Jackson did not fall to the ground.
John C. Fattahi, Galipo’s associate, said after the trial that officers were unnecessarily rough and did not take steps to protect Jackson’s life.
“Despite his gradual decline into unconsciousness and death, the officers did not remove the restraints, put him in a position where he could breathe or start CPR, all contrary to their training and policies,” Fattahi said. “The officers made the incredible claim for the first time at trial that they didn’t perform CPR because they thought (Jackson) might be on PCP and it could intoxicate them through skin contact.”
Prosecutors from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office said Jackson bit an officer and kicked, head-butted and struggled with police while being taken into custody.
The District Attorney’s Office determined the officers were justified in their actions.
Arias said officers held Jackson on the ground to wait for an ambulance because they couldn’t get him into a patrol car.
Even with his hands and ankles bound, the man reportedly continued to struggle.
Two officers used their hands and knees to pin down his arms and shoulders, and two held his legs and another applied weight to his buttocks with his hands, authorities said.
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