A disabled Delaware couple have filed a lawsuit against Delaware State Police after what they say was their horrific interaction with officers conducting a drug raid in their home in June 2014, the News Journal reports.
According to the report, officers beat and used a stun gun on Ruther Hayes, a disabled veteran who takes medication for schizophrenia, while he was trying to cover his wife, whom he was sponge-bathing just before the raid. The Hayeses claim in their federal lawsuit that commanders failed to train officers in the “constitutional bounds and limits concerning the use of force,” particularly when dealing with disabled people.
The Hayeses’ two nephews were the true targets of the raid and were arrested at the home, the Journal reports. However, only one was charged with drug crimes and eventually pleaded guilty to the charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. Other charges, which included illegal possession of prescription medication and possession of drugs, were dropped.
The lawsuit claims that state-police Special Operations Response Team officers entered a bedroom to find Ruther Hayes sponge-bathing his wife, Lisa Hayes, who was lying on the bed. Lisa Hayes’ wheelchair was in the room, and family members had already told officers that Lisa Hayes, who has cerebral palsy and is quadriplegic, could not move her legs.
“You don’t have to keep saying she is disabled. We get it,” one of the officers allegedly said.
Still, according to the suit, officers turned around and pointed weapons at Lisa Hayes, used foul language and “shouted at her to do what she could not: stand up.”
Ruther Hayes was attempting to cover his wife with a sheet when officers allegedly pushed him down, punched him repeatedly and used a Taser on him twice. Ruther Hayes was charged with resisting arrest, though those charges were later dropped, according to the news site.
“I feel not only degraded, humiliated; I feel like they didn’t treat me as a human being,” Lisa Hayes told the Journal, saying that now she is fearful of being in her mother’s home, where the raid occurred. “I relive that day when they came in on me and them yelling at me to get up when they knew that I couldn’t get up.”
“When I do go there now, I don’t go in the house,” Lisa Hayes said. “My mom goes to the car to see me.”
Lisa Hayes added that her husband’s mental state has deteriorated since the raid, making his schizophrenia more severe. The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware is representing the Hayeses. ACLU attorney Richard Morse called out the defendants as having “violated our clients’ rights that they have under federal law,” calling the use of force “unconscionable.”
The Hayeses are seeking damages for the alleged excessive force, battery, emotional distress, false arrest, negligence and other claims. The lawsuit is also seeking to have the court compel the state police to change polices and training “to avoid further instances of excessive force, improper use of Tasers, discrimination against disabled persons and other police misconduct.”
Read more at the News Journal.