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 despite his attempts to tell them that he could not understand their commands.
The man, Brady Mistic, said he was wrongfully jailed for four months over the incident on Sept. 17, 2019. He is suing Officers Nicholas Hanning and Ellie Summers, as well as the city of Idaho Springs and the Clear Creek County Board of Commissioners.
The suit, filed this month in U.S. District Court, says the incident began just after 7:30 p.m. Mistic was alleged to have run a stop sign before he pulled into the parking lot of a laundromat. Unaware that police had followed him into the parking lot, Mistic got out of his vehicle and began walking toward the laundromat, according to the lawsuit.
"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."
Mistic stopped walking and used his hands in an attempt to communicate with the officers, the lawsuit says. Mistic uses American Sign Language to communicate, is unable to read lips and can vocalize only a few words, according to the suit. He usually writes messages on a piece of paper to communicate with people who do not know sign language, it says.
The lawsuit claims that without any "warning or attempt to communicate," Hanning grabbed Mistic by the sweatshirt 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."
Mistic tried to communicate with the officers by saying "no ears" in an attempt to explain that he is deaf, but it did not make a difference, the suit says.
"Defendant Summers ignored Mr. Mistic’s plea and then tased Mr. Mistic a second time," it says.
Hanning and Summers could not be reached at phone numbers listed for them. The Idaho Springs Police Department defended the officers' actions, saying Mistic 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 police department said in an online statement.
"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 statement continued. "Mr. Mistic resisted the officers, and a physical altercation took place."
Police said Mistic was taken to the hospital for an evaluation and then transferred to the Clear Creek County jail.
"The incident was reviewed by former Chief Christian Malanka and the officers' actions were deemed to be appropriate," according to the department.
Hanning was previously fired by the department following the alleged assault of another man, 75-year-old Michael Clark.
Idaho Springs police said in their statement that Hanning suffered a broken leg because of Mistic's "resistive actions." The lawsuit alleges that Hanning caused his own injury.
The suit also claims that at some point Summers realized that Mistic was deaf and relayed the information to responding officers and emergency medical services. Still, Mistic was jailed for four months on charges of second-degree assault on a police officer and resisting arrest, it says. During his time in jail, the suit alleges, Mistic was denied an interpreter and had trouble communicating with jail staff members.
The charges were eventually dismissed, and Mistic was released, the lawsuit says.
A spokesperson for the city of Idaho Springs referred to the police statement. The county Board of Commissioners did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Mistic is seeking compensation for physical and emotional harm, as well as pain and suffering.