ALLENTOWN, PA — A 76-year-old man was repeatedly zapped with a taser after police mistook him for another man — his brother.
A lawsuit has been filed over the incident, which occurred in August 2012. Robert Gross, age 76 at the time, had driven his brother, Carl Gross Sr., to see Carl’s granddaughter at a hair cutting salon inside a Walmart shopping center. Robert waited outside, and walked across the parking lot to a phone store to shop for a new cell phone.
For reasons unclear, police were dispatched to the hair salon because Carl — who suffers from dementia — was causing a problem inside the store. However, when police got to the scene, they set their sights on Robert, who was innocently walking in the parking lot.
Two Berks-Lehigh Regional Police officers became aggressive and shouted at Robert. They allegedly threw the septuagenarian to the ground on his chest. When he asked why they were hurting him, the police replied, “You know.”
Of course, Robert Gross didn’t know. He had done nothing wrong. The bullies proceeded with the attack, firing Tasers repeatedly into Robert Gross. Gross said the pain felt during and after the assault was so extraordinary that he felt like he was going to die, according to Lehigh Valley News. Gross experienced “pain, extreme shock, and alarm” from the electrifying zaps.
Robert Gross endured a total of six (6) electric shocks while he was lying on the ground, according to the lawsuit.
“They didn’t dispute that they tasered him. They didn’t dispute that he got slammed face down to the ground,” explained Elizabeth Roberts, an attorney who represented Robert Gross in court.
Officers actually defended their attack, and “were very adamant that Mr. (Robert) Gross was argumentative and belligerent and trying to punch them,” Roberts stated to Philly.com. “Mr. Gross was equally adamant that nothing like that happened.”
The officers tossed Robert Gross into the back of a police car and charged him with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Brother Carl was later committed to a mental health facility for his dementia.
Robert Gross recently filed suit in U.S. District Court alleging assault, battery, and deprivation of his 4th and 14th Amendment rights. Officers Dathan Schlegel, Michael J. Sinko and Nicholas Morris were named as the assailants.
The propensity for cops to use tasers as compliance tools — even on the elderly — is something that should be of concern to us all. Its not far-fetched to think that a case of mistaken identity followed by a taser attack could happen to anyone.