Deaf man and wife suing San Marcos PD for alleged excessive force that landed him in the hospital

Hays

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — A deaf man says he was tasered without warning, then kicked repeatedly while on the ground by San Marcos Police Department officers — now he and his wife are suing.

“I was completely distraught. There was no discussion, no communication,” Kelley said. “Nothing at at all.”

While the lawsuit against the City of San Marcos and four officers was filed on May 22, the alleged incident happened back on May 25, 2019.

Legal documents state John Kelley and his wife Mary were driving after dinner with their three children in San Marcos, when they got into an argument. The Kelley’s attorney said their children are also deaf.

According to the lawsuit, John got out of the car and walked away. The lawsuit says she pulled into a parking lot where John was, when they both were stopped by San Marcos police.

Police were called out for a domestic violence incident, but the Kelley’s said it was a total misunderstanding. They’re both deaf, and were arguing via sign language — and said it may have looked aggressive. 

John tried to communicate his deafness, and was tasered by two officers, the lawsuit reads.

“I just told them that I was deaf,” John said. “I verbally said that, I was signing this, I am deaf. And then they instantly, just tasered me.”

According to John’s attorney’s, he then dropped to his knees. The lawsuit describes that John was tasered on his back, ribs, and near his eye.

Mary said she tried to tell police that John is deaf too.

“It was already too late by the time,” Mary said. “EMS had arrived. I was completely confused. I thought they were helping him. But the police immediately left, and said, ‘You can go.'”

Part of the lawsuit describing what allegedly happened, reads in part:

“When John tried to roll away from the taser, the Officer Defendants also held him while [the officer] kicked John in the torso multiple times. John blacked out. During the attack, the Officer Defendants made no attempts to warn or communicate with John in a way he could understand. When John woke up, he continued to try to sign that he was deaf. John was in a lot of pain and the taser prongs were still in him. EMS was called and took his vitals. John was scared and had additional difficulty communicating because officers had destroyed his glasses when they attacked him and so he had difficulty reading lips. Mary asked the officers why they tasered John and they said it was because he was walking with his hands in his pockets.”

The lawsuit also says that one of the officers involved communicated with John via the Notes app on his phone after the alleged incident.

The officer reportedly typed: “You were kicked because your hands were kept under your chest. That officer believed you may have been reaching for what could have been a weapon. When he kicked you, he didn’t know you were deaf…yes you told us you were deaf. But that until after you were tased and kicked. If you attempted to tell us while you were being tased, then those words couldn’t be heard.”

John Kelley is being represented by Rebecca Webber, and Scott Hendler of Hendler-Flores Law in Austin. They’re claiming the officers violated John’s fourth and 14th amendment rights.

“Certainly they [his rights] were violated,” Hendler said. “He didn’t do anything wrong. They [officers] have to be in a position to evaluate those circumstances, and respond accordingly. And when they don’t, they have to be held accountable.”

KXAN has reached out to the City of San Marcos and were told by a spokesperson, “Due to the pending litigation, neither the City nor SMPD will have a statement in relation to the incident.”

John and Mary said they’re both still on edge, two years later. Mary said John is triggered by lights, reminding him of the flashing police lights that evening.

“I just didn’t understand why they hurt me,” John said.

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