Atlanta, GA -- On the last day he walked on both legs, could move his arms and lived a normal life, Jerry Blasingame had harmed no one and was simply asking a person for money like millions of homeless folks do every day in this country. Blasingame would suffer a horrid fate, however, in spite of his innocence, thanks to the actions of one officer Jon Grubbs.
Blasingame is now completely paralyzed, requires round-the-clock care and the taxpayers of Atlanta are about to shell out millions. In what the NAACP is calling the largest lawsuit in history — especially for a living man — Blasingame's estate was just awarded $100 million in damages.
A jury this week ruled that the officer used unreasonable and excessive force when he tasered Blasingame despite not committing a crime. According to officials, the encounter between Grubbs and Blasingame happened when Blasingame was 65. He is now 69.
The jury found both the City of Atlanta and the officer guilty of violating Blasingame's civil rights. They awarded $60 million from APD and $40 million from Grubbs.
“He was panhandling and the police, of course, rolled up on him, chased him and then ran after him," Ven Johnson said, who is Blasingame's lawyer.
As the lawsuit explains, Blasingame had committed no crime when Grubbs escalated force against him as it is not illegal to run down the street.
From roughly ten feet away, Grubbs shot Blasingame in the back with the taser for no reason other than to inflict pain and suffering. Unfortunately, the pain and suffering would last Blasingame the rest of his life.
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“Since he's not under arrest, he can run or do whatever he wants to do," Johnson said. “Jerry then fell again, face forward, face planted in smashing his head, multiple facial fractures, brain injury and broke his neck.”
Highlighting the corruption within the system is the fact that during the trial, the defense failed to produce the legally required documents during discovery which hindered Blasingame's case.
“The Court finds that Defendants (City of Atlanta and Jon Grubbs) committed a significant discovery violation by failing to produce the relevant documents,” the judge wrote in a ruling filed Tuesday, according to AJC. “That error has harmed Plaintiff (Jerry Blasingame) and impaired his counsel’s ability to prepare for and present his case at trial.”
Before paralyzing the innocent man in 2018, Grubbs had been on the force for four years — where he remains today — never having been fired, charged with a crime, or even disciplined at all related to the tasering. The only slap on the wrist came two months after the incident when Grubbs received a written warning for not turning on his body camera properly.
“Do you really think that it's a good idea to have somebody that's $100 million liability on your force still interacting with the citizens?” Georgia NAACP President Gerald Griggs asked.
“Given that there was no call for service on this situation, they could have handled it differently," Griggs said. "It [the settlement] sends a strong message from the citizens that live in the northern district of Georgia, a part of which is in Fulton County in Atlanta, that they're sick of this and they want change.”
According to the AJC, the city and the officer plan to appeal the ruling. For now, however, the message is clear.