Berkeley, NJ — Further proving non-compliance should never be an invitation for police to beat someone, Berkeley Township has agreed to pay a deaf man $85,000 for the excessive force one of its officers used when arresting him. Heriberto Carrasquillo, 59, of Rutherford was arrested May 1st, 2016, after police accused him of reaching for a weapon.
The hearing-impaired Carrasquillo was the subject of a domestic dispute when police were called to his residence. They asked him if he had any weapons and he told them he had a “Cap” gun — as in a toy — in his shed behind the house. Carrasquillo was reading the lips of officer Patrick J. Stesner who told the legally deaf man not to touch the weapons.
Carrasquillo told the officer he was not crazy and wouldn’t just start shooting people. Perhaps if the officer had used a pencil and paper, the communication between the two individuals would have been much clearer, but instead of using common sense and logic, Stesner continued to yell commands, orders, and demand compliance from someone who did not and could not understand him.
Upon arriving at the shed, which looked more like a man-cave, Carrasquillo showed Stesner where the gun was and the officer’s voice and pitch went upward. Perhaps knowing he could escalate the use of force now that the suspect was nearer to his toy weapons, the officer then yelled (great training there buddy) at the deaf man and asked, “Do you hear me?” “No, I don’t,” yelled Carrasquillo, stating the obvious.
Berkeley Township administrator John Camera said of the settlement in a telephone interview with reporters, “This case in particular, and municipal settlements (in general), there's often arguable areas of any complaint...This one, the way we saw it, there was certainly an argument that the officer could have acted better than he did, and there was also an argument from our end that there were really no damages due to the officer's actions.”
Unfortunately, the bad apple officer Stesner, who’s no longer with the township, was named in four of the five excessive force lawsuits leveled against the county in the last 10 years.
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As TFTP has stated on numerous occasions, not only do towns stand behind their officers, even when they’ve demonstrated a pattern of abusive behaviors, they continue to pay out thousands of taxpayer dollars to settle claims exactly like the one Carrasquillo filed against them.
Prevention of such instances is what is needed, not, (as we’ve also noticed), blaming the victims in the cases. For cop apologists, Carrasquillo likely knew what he was doing and should have either put in his hearing aid, used paper and pencil himself, or simply done his best to listen to the officer’s commands.
But for more logical thinking individuals, when a deaf person can be thrown to the ground for yelling in an officer’s face that he cannot hear him, there’s definitely a problem with modern-day policing.
The gun, being locked in a storage shed behind the house, served as no threat to anyone. The officer should have used his training to diffuse the situation, potentially inviting a sign-language interpreter to the scene. But of course, that wouldn't have allowed for the officers to inflict pain on a deaf man.
Luckily for Carrasquillo, he survived the attack with only minor injuries. Other deaf individuals — like Daniel Harris, who was shot and killed outside his home in Charlotte, North Carolina — haven't been so lucky.