An innocent deaf woman in Tacoma, Washington says that police shocked her with a Taser and then put her in jail for almost three days with no interpreter after she called 911 to report a guest had attacked her in her own apartment.
Lashonn White told KIRO that she called 911 on April 6 with the help of a certified American Sign Language interpreter.
“I said, ‘Please hurry! There’s a person here beating me up,’” White recalled.
Tacoma Police Officers Ryan Koskovich and Michael Young arrived at the apartment complex about six minutes later. Police records obtained by KIRO showed that both officers had been repeatedly informed that White was deaf.
At the officers’ request, 911 told White to go outside the building, but when she ran towards Koskovich, he pulled his Taser and fired electric probes into her ribs and stomach.
“All I’m doing is waving my hands in the air, and the next thing I know, I’m on the ground and then handcuffed. It was almost like I blacked out. I was so dizzy and disoriented,” White explained. Photographs showed that White also suffered injuries to her cheek, chin, ribs, neck and arms.
“The next thing I know, they took me to jail,” she said. “Told me to stand up, you’re going to jail. I said, ‘What? What have I done?’ I couldn’t figure it out. I had no idea what was going on.”
Nearly identical reports submitted by both officers claimed that Koskovich had held up his right hand and ordered White to stop but she continued to run toward him.
Residents of the apartment building, however, disagreed with the officers’ version of events.
“They had Tased her because he thought she was coming at him, but what she was doing was running to him,” Margaret Sims recalled to KIRO. “But he said, ‘stop’ and he didn’t put his hand up. He just said, ‘stop’ and she couldn’t understand that.”
White was arrested for simple assault and obstruction of a public servant, but after 60 hours in jail — without an interpreter — a city prosecutor asked that the charges not be filed.
Washington state law requires that all hearing impaired people be provided an interpreter soon after the arrest and throughout any investigation.
“If a hearing impaired person is arrested for an alleged violation of a criminal law, the arresting officer or the officer’s supervisor shall, at the earliest possible time, procure and arrange payment for a qualified interpreter for any notification of rights, warning, interrogation, or taking of a statement,” according to state code RCW 2.42.120 (5).
Former Bellevue police chief Don Van Blaricom reviewed the police reports and determined they “were obviously written in concert, after the fact, to CYA [cover your ass].”
“The question to ask yourself is: why would she run at police in an assaultive manner when she had asked for them to be there and was going out to meet them?” Blaricom wondered.
Watch this video from KIRO, broadcast Aug. 5, 2012.