Articles Posted in Police Brutality

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice announced today that it is firing six people who work at the Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Center in West Palm Beach in the wake of Eric Perez’s death. The 18-year-old died last July while in custody there. The department says it is no longer able to wait until Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe concludes his probe into what happened on July 10. The media have not reported at this time whether or not Perez’s family plans to file a Florida wrongful death claim.

Perez was in lockup on a marijuana possession charge. According to the Miami Herald, a detention center healthcare log indicated that even though the teenager threw up and screamed all night, a nurse did not examine him until 7:51 am in the morning (Perez also reportedly began hallucinating that an imaginary person was on top of him. Also, during the course of the night, guards tried to ask another nurse for “guidance” but she didn’t answer the phone). Perez was pronounced dead by paramedics at approximately 8:10am.

DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters reports that not all of the six who are being fired have been directly linked to Perez’s death. Some terminations are in the wake of the examination into detention center operations.

Three people who were fired, Albert Rios, Christian Lewis, and Darrell Smith, are accused of procedural violations on the night that Perez died. According to Rios, the guards “engaged in unauthorized physical contact or horseplay” with Perez because it was his 18th birthday.

If you or someone you love sustained serious injury or became sick while in police custody and law enforcement officers did not do enough to prevent the injury or provide the necessary medical care, you may have grounds for a West Palm Beach personal injury case. It doesn’t matter whether or not a crime was committed. You still have certain rights and protections whether or not you are behind bars and charged with/convicted of wrongdoing.

State officials fire 6 West Palm juvenile detention workers in connection with teen’s July death, Palm Beach Post, December 28, 2011
Lockup’s medical log details teen’s death spiral, Miami Herald, July 20, 2011

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Matthew Lawson, a 20-year-old Pembroke Pines man, is suing the Town of Davie and three of its cops for Florida police brutality. Lawson has filed a federal complaint seeking $1 million.

In his civil complaint, Lawson claims Davie police officers Paul Vardakis, Steve Ricker, and Curtis Schock used excessive force when arresting him in 2009 . Lawson says that they Tasered him, set a K-9 on him to bite and attack, and physically assaulted him with kicks and punches. At the time of the arrest, Lawson was an 18-year-old high school student.

The charges of resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer were later dropped by the Broward State Attorney’s office, which concluded that it is not possible to resist an arrest that is unlawful and that there was no reasonable cause to justify why the officers stopped and detained Lawson. His federal complaint says that the officers reported that they tried to stop him because he was swaying and sweating and his pupils were dilated as if he were on drugs.

According to police, the Winter Haven man was “grabbing his head….. being disorderly,” which is why off-duty cops working at the amusement center approached him. They claim that he resisted violently.

A tussle ensued and one of the cops used a stun gun on Winter. It was then that he became unresponsive.

A rescue crew was called and Johnson was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The Medical Examiner has yet to announce his cause of death.

For now, the officers who were involved in Johnson’s arrest have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure in this type of situation.

Taser Use
Our Palm Beach injury lawyers are always disturbed when we here of another injury or death resulting from Taser use. These handheld devices can emit jolts of up to 50,000 volts. Less lethal than guns, getting stunned by a Taser can be extremely painful and in some cases may result in serious injury and even death. People that are under the influence of drugs, have a heart condition, or are severely agitated are among those more prone to Taser injuries.

According to Amnesty International, over 300 people have died in the US in the last 10 years after they were Tasered. Also, other injuries can result. Just last year, the mother of one man filed a Taser lawsuit after her son fell after he was stunned, striking his head and sustaining a permanent traumatic brain injury that left him mentally and physically disabled.

It is important that police officers only use Tasers when necessary. Police officers can be held liable for Florida personal injury if they exercised excessive use of force or committed police brutality and someone got hurt or died as a result.

Tased man dies after scuffle with OPD at Universal Studios theater, Sun-Sentinel, April 22, 2011
Man dies after stun gun used in Florida, UPI, April 22, 2011
Mother sues police over stun-gun fall, Dispatch.com, December 1, 2010

Related Web Resources:
Universal CityWalk

Taser Abuse, Amnesty International Continue reading

In Clearwater, John Niesen and his mother Mary Riley are suing the Florida city and five ex-police offers for his brother’s death. Riley says that city cops bludgeoned his brother Michael, then age 18, to death over 30 years ago.

Niesen and Riley are accusing the city of Clearwater of conspiracy, including failure to conduct a complete investigation, and destroying evidence. Their Florida wrongful death lawsuit seeks damages that include loss of companionship, loss of support and services, and past and future mental pain and suffering.

According to Niesen, Michael died in July 1977 after he was attacked by police officers that were upset when a fellow cop died after being thrown from the truck that the teenager was driving.