A 69-year-old Atlanta beggar who suffered a life-changing injury after being tased by a city police officer has been handed a nine-figure verdict by a jury. Civil rights activists note that despite the historic victory, the officer is still employed by the city.
Keith Edwards, conservator of Jerry Blasingame, sued the city of Atlanta, the Atlanta Police Department and one of their officers, Jon Grubbs, on behalf of his client and filed on July 7th, 2019. The claim concerned his medical bills (both past and future), which were acquired as a result of the injury reported to the police, which rendered him a paraplegic with little use of his arms, for whom the defendants were to cover
On Tuesday, August 16, after a three-year legal battle, a federal jury sided with the 69-year-old, saying Grubbs used excessive force, violated police department guidelines and violated his civil rights when he stabbed the elderly man in the back after running away from Grubbs on July 10, 2018.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports attorney Ven Johnson said he was “very grateful” that the jury “held Grubbs accountable” for his actions.
Blasingame received a total of $100 million, with $60 million coming from APD and $40 million from the officer himself. The NAACP’s Georgia branch described the award as the largest in a single civil proceeding related to civil rights violations by law enforcement
Johnson said: “We are very, very grateful to this amazing jury and so proud of the amazing job they did in holding these officers to account and getting justice for Mr Blasingame.”
One of the attorneys representing Atlanta and the officer, Staci J. Miller, maintained throughout the trial that although the man’s injuries were deplorable and tragic, his conviction gave the officer the right to use the taser. She argued it was not intentional excessive force but a “consequence” of his acceptable policing based on his assessment of “threatening circumstances” that could endanger others.
Miller said the incident was the result of a series of actions and was not an example of an officer intentionally using excessive force.
“We cannot assume the consequence,” Miller said. “We have to start from the action, from the totality of the situation.”
Data released by U.S. district courts states that less than 1% of federal civil lawsuits have ever been tried by a jury, leading Craig Jones, a civil rights attorney, to state: “While only a small percentage of lawsuits actually have a jury Jury goes trial, sometimes that’s the only way to solve them.”
According to the lawsuit, Blasingame was asking for money near Windsor Street near downtown Atlanta when he encountered Grubbs and another officer. He, an unarmed black man, approached cars and made his petition. The two police officers came and told him to stop.
Blasingame moved off the road to a guardrail. Grubbs then exited his patrol vehicle and approached Blasingame, who fled, leading Grubbs to give chase.
The lawyer asks: “Grubbs gets out of the car and chases my client – a 65-year-old man – and for what? That you might ask people for money?”
Shortly after running after the older man, Grubbs used his taser and hit him in the spine while he was 10 feet away. Blasingame, affected by the voltage of the stun gun, fell.
“As a result of the shock and subsequent fall, Mr Blasingame became unconscious and was bleeding profusely from his head,” the complaint reads.
11 Alive reports, Johnson said, “Since he’s not under arrest, he can run or do whatever he wants,” Johnson said. “Jerry then fell again, face forward, face punched in the head, multiple facial fractures, brain injuries and broke his neck.”
Police bodycam showed Blasingame lying unconscious and motionless on the ground. Grubbs urged medical professionals to show up at the scene. When paramedics arrived, they took Blasingame to Grady Memorial Hospital’s trauma center, where he was treated.
Blasingame’s lawyers argued that Grubb’s use of force, particularly considering the man’s age and the fact that he was running from the officer and posed no danger, was excessive.
The attorney was able to overturn the APD policy on officers’ use of tasers, which says they should not be used on a person “actively walking away from officers on hard surfaces or uneven terrain, visibly pregnant women.” , the elderly, young children, or the visibly infirm, unless there are urgent circumstances.”
Years later, Blasingame has a serious spinal cord injury and is unable to use his limbs. while he has extremely he has limited use of his arms, no use of his legs at all, and leaves it to his attorney to describe him as “a prisoner in his own body.” The injured man has amassed more than $14 million in medical bills and now requires 24-hour care in a residential home as a result of his injuries, and his future care is expected to cost about $1 million per year for the rest of his life year.
The attorney said in his closing arguments on Thursday, August 25: “If you run from the police, you get what you sow. That’s what some people think. But that’s not the case.”
According to POST, the records of the state police certification agency, Grubbs has worked for the force since 2014 and remains employed by the city. His POST record listed him as having no sanctions and a police officer in good standing.
APD records say he was placed on administrative leave and the department was looking into the case at length. However, six months before the conclusion of an internal investigation, he was allowed to work on the street again.
Georgia NAACP President Gerald Griggs believes this ruling should persuade the city to fire the officer.
“Do you really think it’s a good idea to have someone who’s a $100 million liability for your force who’s still interacting with the citizens?” Griggs said.
Johnson believes winning the case proves one thing: “Jerry Blasingame matters.”
The defense still has an application for judicial review. The city attorney is seeking a directed judgment that overturns the trial outcome.
A judge’s decision on the pending application could change the jury’s verdict.
https://atlantablackstar.com/2022/08/28/black-senior-citizen-awarded-100-million-by-jury-after-atlanta-police-tasing-incident-left-him-a-quadriplegic/ Black senior awarded $100 million by jury after Atlanta police tasing incident left him paraplegic