ACLU Says NOPD Taser Practice Violates Constitutional Rights

Affiliate: ACLU of Louisiana
December 22, 2011 12:00 am

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Combat Veteran Was hit with Taser While Seeking Emotional Support; ACLU seeks Remedy in Federal Court

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NEW ORLEANS, LA — Today the ACLU of Louisiana assumed representation of Geoffrey Clayton, a resident of the state of Washington and a combat veteran of the Iraq war. During a May 2009 visit to New Orleans, Mr. Clayton suffered an episode brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that has plagued him since his military service. While in the French Quarter talking on the phone with his former Army Sergeant, Mr. Clayton flagged down a passing police car to ask for help. In return, he was Tasered by Officer David Zullo, who had asked him to put his phone down. As a result of the Tasering, Mr. Clayton fell to the ground and suffered serious and lasting head injuries that left him unable to perform his military duties and forced him to resign from service.

“This is the second lawsuit brought by the ACLU over NOPD Taser practices since 2007,” said Marjorie R. Esman, ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director. “Last year, the City of New Orleans paid monetary damages to Steven Elloie, who in 2006 was Tasered by police officers while tending to his family-owned business in Central City. While that case was pending, the officer in this case misused a dangerous weapon against an innocent combat veteran who did nothing more than ask the police for help. It’s clear that the New Orleans Police Department hadn’t changed its practices, and the reward to Mr. Clayton for seeking help was grave personal injury instead of the assistance that he sought and needed.”

The lawsuit, Clayton v. City of New Orleans, was filed last year. Today the ACLU of Louisiana assumed representation of Mr. Clayton to ensure that his rights are fully protected. “Tasers are dangerous weapons that can inflict serious, even fatal injury,” Esman continued. “Tasers should not be used on someone who poses no threat. Using one on a combat veteran in distress, who simply needed assistance from a police officer, shows flagrant disregard for the rights of the public and of the intended use of this dangerous device. It’s past time for the New Orleans Police Department to ensure the safety of the public it is sworn to serve, and to stop using dangerous weapons on people who pose no threat.”

The case is pending in the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

A copy of the lawsuit is available here:

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