Lafollette, TN — A Campbell County deaf teenager was tasered and put into handcuffs after sheriff’s deputies gave the teen orders he simply couldn’t hear. Brett Elkins, 19, was at a friend’s house, had called his mother, and was waiting on her to pick him up when the police got a call to respond to the same address for a domestic dispute.
As police were arriving on scene they gave Elkins orders which he not only did not hear, but he also did not see the deputies making gestures. Because he was deaf, he was then tasered in the back as he was walking away from the cops. He didn’t even know he had been tased but instinctly believed the shock which threw him to the ground came from his cochlear implant, the device which allows him to hear. At the time Campbell County deputies deployed the taser on Elkins, he says his implant batteries had died and he wasn’t able to hear anything.
As the innocent deaf teen was lying on the ground he assumed the device had sent a shock to his brain, throwing him down. But instead, it was the cop’s taser which rendered him immobile. Making matters worse, when he was shocked, somehow, someway, his cochlear implant went missing. It simply flew off of his head and ear.
After police released him, realizing he was not disobeying a lawful order on purpose, he went looking for his $8,000 hearing device but couldn’t locate it. It was lost.
His mother, Jamie Wilhoit, told reporters:
He was walking, he felt a shock, his arms fell beside him, and he fell over. He assumed it was his cochlear, that it had malfunctioned, that was the first thing he thought. He was scared and crying. His cochlear implant had died, the batteries weren’t working, it wasn’t charged.
Elkins’ implant was new, and the family feared they would be responsible for replacing the costly device. Fortunately, the police department did something extremely rare — in a likely move to avoid a lawsuit. The Campbell County Sheriff’s Office reported Elkins’ loss to their insurance company, which agreed to replace the invaluable hearing device. Shockingly, this story appears to have a happy ending.
But if we examine the facts in the case, a deaf, innocent, teenager, who was completely unaware there was a domestic dispute taking place at his friend’s house, was violently tasered by police in his back.
The force of being tasered left him dumbfounded and bewildered. His cochlear implant will now take several weeks to replace, and his back is now scarred from the barbs of the taser. Instead of simply tapping the teen on the shoulder, or grabbing his arm, the first use of force was a taser. Sadly, as TFTP has reported, all too often citizens are the victims of unwitting cops who are simply not trained well enough to distinguish between citizens and citizens with special needs.
Predictably, the Sheriff investigated the incident and concluded his deputies were not guilty of any wrongdoing. Elkins would be wise to consult with an attorney. If he accepts the implant, he may not be able to sue the police for the violation of his 4th and 14th Amendment rights. He truly has a lawsuit on his hands which he will most likely win big from a sympathetic public jury.