Officer Doug Martin was fired after tasing a senior citizen with Alzheimers in his nursing home. Police were called after a nurse reported a patient had hit his roommate, a nurse and an assistant. Officers entered the ward to find James Howard sitting in his chair totally naked except for socks. The man refused the officers’ command to lie down and instead advanced on them.
Police tried to handcuff Howard and restrain him when one of the officers lost control of his wrists. Officer Martin yelled “taser” and shocked the old man five times, totaling 31 seconds. Howard’s wife complained and the officer was fired after an investigation revealed he used excessive force.
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Officer Martin appealed the case in Miami superior court initially and won but the city of Peru appealed. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled however that Martin was properly fired, citing testimony from the man who trained Martin on the use of a taser.
“Jumper testified that Martin had specifically been instructed – in the recertification presentation – on the increased risk of death or serious injury for exposure over 15 seconds, whether due to multiple applications or continuous cycling,” Judge Lloyd Bailey wrote for a three-member panel. Intervals to achieve compliance were very short, with only a two-second interval between the third and fourth deployments. Moreover, it is noteworthy that Howard was handcuffed after the third Taser application,” Bailey added. The panel chided the lower court for having “disregarded evidence favorable to (the board’s) decision, credited the testimony of witnesses that the trial court did not personally hear, and misstated evidence regarding the scope of Martin’s training. In short, the trial court reweighed the evidence and reassessed the credibility of witnesses.”