Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

June 20, 2012

Peru police Tase Alzheimer patient

Family members outraged by incident, threaten lawsuit

By Carson Gerber
Kokomo Tribune

PERU — At least one Peru police officer is on administrative leave after a 64-year-old nursing home resident with advanced-stage Alzheimer’s was Tased three times. Police said he wouldn’t obey their commands.

Three Peru officers and a Dukes EMS unit arrived at Miller’s Merry Manor Nursing Home just before 6 a.m. Sunday after staff reported resident James Howard was combative and struck several employees.

According to police reports, Officers Gregory Martin and Jeremy Brindle entered Howard’s room in the locked-down Alzheimer’s unit and told him to enter the ambulance.

When Howard did not respond to commands, Martin unholstered his Taser and told him he would be Tased if he didn’t comply.

Brindle attempted to gain control of Howard’s arms to restrain him, and a struggle ensued. When Howard turned towards Brindle, Martin then Tased him, which caused Howard to drop to the floor.

Howard was then Tased by Martin two more times while on the ground after ordering him multiple times to roll onto his stomach. Police said Howard resisted constraint and attempted to fight them while on the floor.

Brindle then handcuffed Howard, which left a large, bloody gash on his wrist and escorted him to Duke’s Memorial Hospital. Officers said he was combative in the ambulance until his wife arrived at the hospital and calmed him down.

Howard’s wife, Virginia, called the incident “sadistic” and said she plans to press charges against the officers.

She said her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 13 years ago and doesn’t understand the simplest directions or commands like “sit down or pick up a book.”

“He’s a child trapped in an adult’s body,” she said. “He’s not even at a 2-year-old’s level.”

When Virginia found out James had been Tased by police, she said she was physically ill in the hospital parking lot.

“Now, he’s afraid when too many people are around,” she said. “He thinks they’re going to hurt him ... You can see it on his face. He’s scared.”

Virginia said she also places blame on the nursing home staff, which didn’t intervene when police Tased James.

“They didn’t protect him,” she said. “Nobody stopped it. Everybody witnessed it, but nobody stopped it.”

Police announced Monday they have launched an internal investigation, but would not comment about the incident or the investigation.

Police Chief Steve Hoover said no time frame has been set on the investigation, noting several people need to be interviewed regarding the incident.

“I would just ask from the citizens of Peru to be patient and allow us to do a thorough investigation into the matter,” he said Monday. “We assure you that we are taking this seriously, but it will take some time to do the investigation correctly.”

• Carson Gerber, Tribune reporter, may be reached by calling 765-854-6739 or via email at carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com.