Last month, a man was assaulted by a police officer while trying to get his wife to a hospital; on Thursday, a man was allegedly assaulted for trying to leave one. Derek Thomas, nephew of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, claims he was brutalized by security guards at a hospital after refusing medical care. According to ABC, he was admitted to West Jefferson Medical Center “for a possible suicide attempt.”
Shortly after arriving, he was asked to put on a hospital gown. Thomas says he refused, and wanted to leave the facility. Within minutes, Thomas says things got very ugly, very fast. “The guy asked me, you’re either going to do it or we’re going to tase you” Thomas says.
Before being tased, Thomas says he was punched in the lip and had a fist full of his hair pulled out. To make matters worse, he is epileptic, and says he suffered a massive seizure as he was being tased. His sister Kimberly says he could’ve died. “This was not only put on his chart letting them know he already had a health condition this should not have happened at a hospital” Kimberly Thomas comments.
Thomas claims that after the incident, he was told that he was not allowed to leave the hospital. Apparently, the punishment for not wanting medical attention is to have someone make you need medical attention.
ABC has published several videos on the incident which I’ve embedded below.
This case is going to be interesting considering that Thomas, who has stated that he “would like to sue the hospital,” is related to a Supreme Court Justice. Clarence Thomas is apparently “outraged” and is planning on visiting his nephew to investigate what happened. I don’t think Derek Thomas deserves any more or less sympathy than other victims of violent crime, but his relationship to Clarence Thomas is still significant. Perhaps Clarence Thomas will think back to this incident next time he rules on a case involving an abuse of power by a police officer.
I also hope that the case will help to spark a louder debate about the proper use of force — especially tasers — which is desperately needed considering that earlier this year, a federal court ruled that Seattle police did not employ excessive force when they tasered Malaika Brooks, a pregnant woman, three times over a nonviolent misdemeanor. Brooks refused to sign a speeding ticket because she believed that doing so was an admission of guilt. For her defiance, she was tasered in the thigh, shoulder, and neck and then arrested. As the lawyer who represented Brooks explained,
the court’s 2-1 decision sanctioned “pain compliance” tactics through a modern-day version of the cattle prod.
“To inflict pain on a person if that person is not doing what the police want that person to do is simply outrageous,” said Eric Zubel, the woman’s attorney. “I cannot say that loud enough.”
In another recent case, a police officer (who also worked in Seattle) attempted to stop a teenage girl for jaywalking. When she ignored him, he attempted to place her under arrest. The girl’s friend attempted to interfere with the arrest and the officer decided to respond by punching the friend in the face.
Police officers, security guards, etc need to understand that violence is not the only way to deal with a disagreement and that when violence is employed, it must be proportional to the offense. There’s really no excuse for punching or tasering someone unless they pose a danger to others. Allowing an argument about a speeding ticket, jaywalking, or medical care to escalate into a violent confrontation is simply unacceptable. If you can’t deal with a situation like this without someone ending up with a black eye, then you really have no business doing police/security work.
Think with your brain, not your gun.