SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — Four years ago Thursday, San Marcos Police used a stun gun against a deaf man after they responded to a call of a physical disturbance.
For the first time, KXAN received body camera video from that day. The video shows the man with his hands up before officers used the stun gun.
That incident led to a lawsuit against the City of San Marcos and the officers involved.
“They started to taser me over and over and over again,” said John Kelley.
Through an American Sign Language interpreter, Kelley shared what he remembered about the day in May 2019. Kelley said he and his wife got into an argument after leaving dinner with their children. He said someone saw them and called 911 for a possible physical disturbance.
“My wife and I were signing after she got out of the car very aggressively in our heated debate,” Kelley said.
He said he decided to walk away from the car and that’s when police arrived.
“Hey sir, how’s it going? Can I see your hands please? Can you stop? I need you to stop,” said one officer in the body camera video.
But Kelley said, unable to hear them, he continued on. That’s when three officers used a stun gun on him.
“You can see right there on the video, like the moment that they realize, ‘Oh my God, he’s deaf. He’s deaf. He’s deaf,'” said Rebecca Webber, an attorney for Kelley.
She said two years later in 2021, they filed a federal lawsuit accusing the City of San Marcos and the three officers of violating Kelley’s civil rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We allege in the lawsuit that the police used excessive force,” Webber said. “He wasn’t arrested or charged with anything.”
Webber said a judge is currently deciding if the lawsuit will go to a jury trial. She expects a decision by July or August.
KXAN reached out to the attorney for all three officers and will update this when we receive a response.
The police chief’s response
San Marcos Police Chief Stan Standridge said all three officers completed a course on interacting with drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing. He said the department reviewed the incident when it happened and found the force “not outside of policy.”
“It should be noted that force was used before any knowledge of Mr. Kelley’s deafness. Once officers learned he is Deaf, all force stopped immediately.”San Marcos Police Chief Stan Standridge
Still, Kelley said his family was left traumatized. He said moving forward, he wants to see better communication between officers and the Deaf community.
“Law enforcement understanding how to get an interpreter, how to use their technology to get a video interpreter if needed. There are options,” Kelley said.