Man calls 911 for paramedics, gets Tasered instead
By JOANN LIVINGSTON, Daily Light Managing Editor
Waxahachie resident Allen Nelms says a call to 911 to get medical attention for his diabetic seizure got him Tasered by police instead.
He said he still has no answer as to why police broke down his door with their guns drawn before shooting him multiple times with a Taser as he lay in bed.
“One of the officers said I ‘lunged’ at him. I asked him, ‘How can I lunge at you from my back and on my bed?’ ” Nelms said in an interview with the Daily Light.
All he’s received, he said, is a one-paragraph statement from police that indicates the department concluded an investigation into his allegation of excessive force in less than five days, with Assistant Chief Brett Colston saying the officers operated within policy guidelines.
The 52-year-old partially disabled man - who also suffers from rheumatoid arthritis - was having a diabetic seizure during the early morning hours of April 28 when his girlfriend, Josie Edwards, called 911 to request paramedics.
“I respect the law and police but on this day I was a shooting target for them when I needed help,” Nelms said in his May 3 written complaint to the police department.
The couple’s statements indicate an officer came to the residence on Perry Avenue and inquired as to what was going on - and then called for backup.
Nelms told the Daily Light that he was in his bed in the couple’s bedroom when officers burst in with their guns drawn and yelling at him to get on the floor.
He said he told them he needed medical help, not the police, but officers continued yelling at him to get on the floor. He said he went to roll over to his right, with photographs indicating he was struck by Taser barbs on his left side, his back and his shoulder. He said he was handcuffed, with paramedics intervening when the officers began trying to yank the Taser barbs from his skin.
Paramedics removed the Taser barbs and then checked his blood sugar, with officers then releasing him from the handcuffs.
In her statement, Edwards, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease and is on oxygen, said an officer came to the door and asked her what was the matter before calling for backup and the paramedics.
She said about six or seven police officers kicked the front door in and stormed the back bedroom where she said she could hear one telling Nelms to get on the floor.
“Allen was shouting, ‘Please don’t do me like this. I just need help.’ Next thing I heard some ‘zing’ noise and Allen was shouting,” she wrote in her statement. “I asked what were they doing to him. One policeman replied, ‘We just took care of him.’
“After they did their shooting and laughing, they came out (of) the rooms. The paramedics had to pull out the Tasers,” she said.
After Nelms was Tasered, Edwards said officers asked her what she was doing there, with Edwards telling them it was her home and she lived there. She said the officers then questioned her about what time Nelms came home and if he was drunk or on drugs, if he ever got into fights or if he had hit her.
In her statement, Edwards said she told officers Nelms did none of that and that he was sickly. She also said she told the officers they had called for paramedics in the past because of his seizures.
Nelms told the Daily Light he has never had a problem in calling for paramedics before, and there is no history of his becoming violent when he is having a diabetic seizure.
Edwards noted the same in her statement, which was taken as part of Nelms’ complaint.
“Of the 16 years that we (have) lived here and called for paramedics, police decide to come and take over and try to almost kill the man,” she said in her statement. “They never asked any questions (like) did he have a heart pacer, they just wanted to have fun by shooting Tasers and handcuffing the man after he was shot,” she said.
Nelms said after he was checked over, the police and paramedics left. He was not transported, there was no arrest made nor charge filed.
After his complaint was closed, Nelms said he was referred by a city council member to Waxahachie attorney Rodney Ramsey, who told the Daily Light he has filed notice with the city on Nelms’ behalf to preserve all documentation and evidence relating to the incident.
“This police department has a bad history of disparate treatment on the east side,” Ramsey said. “They’re not treated fairly. They’re not treated justly.
“I bet the police wouldn’t kick in a white man’s door on Spring Creek at 4:30 a.m. and Taser him three or four times,” said Ramsey, saying he will seek justice on Nelms’ behalf.
“I don’t care if I make a dime on this case. I don’t care if this costs me money,” he said. “I want to know what policy says you can kick somebody’s door down and Taser them for asking for medical help. This is not going to happen in this town anymore.”
Ramsey said he wants the names of the officers involved in the incident and that he will renew his efforts to see a citizens review board of police established in the city of Waxahachie, saying that while the majority of the department’s officers are good officers, there are some whose actions are questionable.
In addition to what Ramsey cites as Civil Rights violations, he said what really disturbs him about the incident is that the officers were laughing about what happened.
“They better have everything they have on this,” he said. “There had better not be one piece of evidence that is shredded in this case.”
Nelms filed his complaint with the police department at 2:05 p.m. Thursday, May 3.
An internal affairs investigation was conducted, with Colston informing Nelms of its conclusion in a written response dated Wednesday, May 9.
“A review regarding your written complaint dated May 3, 2007, was conducted,” Colston wrote in a one-paragraph response. “After careful consideration of your allegations we have found that the officers were within our departmental policies regarding the use of a less than lethal force option (TASER) on you during an event at your residence on April 28, 2007.”
Because litigation has been threatened, little if any information is available for public release. A provision of the Open Records Act allows governmental agencies to withhold otherwise releasable materials under an exception of pending litigation.
As a result, in this case, such materials as dispatcher and radio communications and the use of force report in all likelihood will be withheld - as allowed by prior rulings of the state Attorney General’s Office.
A brief synopsis of the incident that is releasable by the department says only that officers responded to 720 Perry at about 4:30 a.m. April 28 in reference to a 911 hangup.
A Waxahachie Fire Department call record indicates a fire squad responded to the address on a “medical assist, assist EMS crew.” Fire personnel were notified at 4:44 a.m., arriving at 4:47 and clearing at 5:25 a.m.
“We acknowledge an incident occurred and allegations of excessive force made,” Police Chief Chuck Edge said. “We have looked into the incident and (because of Civil Service rules and the pending litigation Open Record exception) cannot talk about it any further.”
The Daily Light has requested a copy of the department’s policies on use of a less than lethal force option.
The Waxahachie Police Department acquired Tasers in late 2004. The weapons fire two small probes from up to 21 feet away and administer a 50,000-volt shock. The electrical charge disables a person’s ability to control his muscles, making coordinated activity all but impossible during the five-second duration of the impulse.
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