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Deaf Idaho man who couldn't hear police commands was tased and spent 4 months in prison

"A person would have to know they're under arrest in order to resist arrest," said the man's attorney.

Deaf Idaho man who couldn't hear police commands was tased and spent 4 months in prison
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Daniel Truta / EyeEm

Trigger warning: This story contains descriptions and images of violence that some readers may find distressing.

A Colorado man who is deaf and uses sign language to communicate is suing two police officers, the city of Idaho Springs, and the Clear Creek County Board of Commissioners. The man, Brady Mistic, claims in a new federal lawsuit that he was slammed to the ground and stunned with a taser during an arrest despite his attempts to tell the officers that he could not understand their commands. After the 2019 encounter, Mistic was charged with resisting arrest and assault on a police officer. He was jailed for four months over the incident, only to have the charges against him dropped eventually.


"They went to force unreasonably fast, unreasonably rashly, without any legitimate justification for using force, which is particularly problematic for a person who's disabled like Mr. Mistic was," Raymond Bryant, Mistic's attorney, told NPR. In a statement, the Idaho Springs Police Department said the two officers — Nicholas Hanning and Ellie Summers — did not know Mistic was deaf during the initial encounter and maintained that he resisted arrest, causing one of the officers to break his leg. The department added that the police chief had reviewed the incident and found the officers acted appropriately in the situation.


However, the lawsuit, filed this month in U.S. District Court, states: "This is a civil rights action seeking justice for the shocking use of unnecessary police force and wrongful incarceration of a deaf man whom the Defendant officers rashly attacked after failing to recognize his disability and misinterpreting his non-threatening attempts to see and communicate as challenges to police authority." As per the suit, the incident began just after 7:30 p.m. on September 17, 2019, when the officers reportedly saw a vehicle roll through a stop sign. They followed the vehicle into a laundromat's parking lot, where unaware of what was going on, Mistic got out of his vehicle and began walking toward the laundromat.


"As Mr. Mistic exited his car and walked past a dumpster in between his vehicle and the police vehicle, toward the laundry door, he was blinded by police vehicle lights and/or a spotlight shone by the officers," the suit says. "He had no idea what was happening, what the police were doing, or if the officers' presence had anything to do with him." According to the suit, Mistic — who is unable to read lips and can vocalize only a few words — stopped walking and used his hands in an attempt to communicate with the officers.


The lawsuit alleges that Hanning grabbed Mistic by the sweatshirt without any "warning or attempt to communicate," and threw him on the ground, causing Mistic's head to hit the concrete. "Defendant Hanning pinned Mr. Mistic to the ground on his back while Mr. Mistic held his hands out with his palms facing defendant Hanning in an attempt to show that he meant no harm and was doing nothing to threaten the officer," the lawsuit says. "On the ground, defendant Summers joined in, grabbing Mr. Mistic... Defendant Summers pulled out her Taser and drive stunned Mr. Mistic."


Bryant said his client did not resist arrest. "A person would have to know they're under arrest in order to resist arrest," he said. After he was on the ground, Mistic yelled "no ears" to try to communicate to the officers he was deaf, but they ignored him, the suit says. "Defendant Summers ignored Mr. Mistic's plea and then tased Mr. Mistic a second time," it says. Police said Mistic was taken to the hospital for an evaluation and then transferred to the Clear Creek County jail. While police statement claims that Hanning suffered a broken leg because of Mistic's "resistive actions," the lawsuit alleges that Hanning caused his own injury.


Mistic was charged with assault on a first responder, obstructing a peace officer, resisting arrest, and possession of forged currency, the suit states, as police had found movie-prop money in his wallet. During his time in jail, the suit alleges, Mistic had trouble communicating with jail staff members and was repeatedly denied an interpreter. He is now seeking compensation for physical and emotional harm, as well as pain and suffering. Meanwhile, Hanning and Summers made headlines earlier this year in connection with a lawsuit filed by 75-year-old Michael Clark who claimed he was Tasered and roughed up without justification during a police encounter in May. Hanning was charged with felony assault on an at-risk adult and fired from the police department. Summers — who allegedly used a Taser on Mistic — is still an officer with the Idaho Springs police.

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