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Idaho Police Sued for Wrongfully Arresting and Assaulting Deaf Man Who Didn’t ‘Comply’ With Their Verbal Commands

A deaf man in Idaho was arrested, charged with resisting arrest, and ultimately jailed for four months after running a stop sign and not responding “properly” when police officers tried to give him a ticket. He is now suing the officers and their police department for their actions in a new federal lawsuit.

Minyvonne Burke of NBC News reported that Brady Mistic, “a Colorado man who is deaf and uses sign language to communicate, said two Idaho Springs officers slammed him to the ground during an arrest [on Sept. 17, 2019] despite his attempts to tell police that he could not understand their commands.”

Mistic was then wrongfully charged for his actions and held in jail for four months. 

In an attempt to right the wrongs he suffered, Mistic is now suing the city of Idaho Springs, the Clear Creek County Board of Commissioners and the two officers involved in the incident — Nicholas Hanning and Ellie Summers — in federal court.

In his suit filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Mistic said his ordeal began on the evening of Sept. 17 when he ran a stop sign while pulling into the parking lot of a laundromat. He exited his car and started walking towards the business, unaware that the officers had seen him miss the stop sign and followed him into the parking lot.

“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 lawsuit said. “He had no idea what was happening, what the police were doing, or if the officers’ presence had anything to do with him.”

When he noticed the lights, Mistic said he stopped walking and tried to use his hands to signal and attempt to communicate with the officers.

“Mistic uses American Sign Language to communicate, is unable to read lips and can vocalize only a few words,” Burke reported. “He usually writes down messages on a piece of paper to communicate with people who do not know sign language.”

Instead of looking at what he was doing with his hands and with no attempt to communicate with Mistic, the lawsuit alleges that Hanning grabbed Mistic by the sweatshirt and shoved him to the ground, causing him to hit his head on the concrete.

The lawsuit states that “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.”

Once he was on the ground, Officer Summers joined in the assault, pulling out her taser and stunning Mistic multiple times. Mistic said he tried to say “no ears” to the officers to explain why he wasn’t responding in the way they wanted, but they ignored his pleas.

“Officers then directed Mr. Mistic to sit down. At one point, officers attempted to gain control of Mr. Mistic by placing him into handcuffs due to his unexplained actions,” the lawsuit continued. “Mr. Mistic resisted the officers, and a physical altercation took place.”

The suit alleges that even though officers realized Mistic was deaf partway through that evening, he was still charged with second-degree assault on a police officer and resisting arrest and jailed for four months. A local judge ultimately dismissed the charges against him and released him from jail.

In a statement, the Idaho Springs Police Department defended the actions of Hanning and Summers, saying Mistic should not have approached a “clearly marked patrol car” that had its emergency lights activated.

“The officers gave verbal commands for Mr. Mistic to get back in his vehicle. It was later determined Mr. Mistic was deaf, but this fact was not known to the officers during the initial encounter,” the department said. “The incident was reviewed by former Chief Christian Malanka, and the officers’ actions were deemed to be appropriate.”

In his lawsuit, Burke reported that “Mistic is seeking compensation for physical and emotional harm, as well as pain and suffering.”


Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

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