Sheriff’s deputy accused of using excessive force in subduing man having a seizure

A Vero Beach man claims he was having a seizure at the Indian River Medical Center when a Sheriff’s Deputy slammed him into a wall, pushed him onto the ground, handcuffed him and sat on his legs while waiting for backup to arrive.

An attorney for Brian Gines Jr. filed a civil complaint in the 19th Judicial Circuit alleging excessive force, negligence and battery against the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office and its employees for the incident.

The then 36-year-old was being treated at the hospital for a seizure disorder in 2014. The condition was so severe, his attorney claims in court filings, it could “occasionally cause him to become violent against his will.” This information, lawyer Jeffrey Fadley says, was well known to hospital staff.

Gines had a second seizure while waiting at the emergency room and began acting violently and erratically, the lawyer contends in the complaint. Sheriff’s Office Deputy David Russell responded to the commotion and intervened, even though several hospital staff told him the patient should not be approached.

“The law-enforcement officer ignored warnings by the Indian River Medical Center staff and approached Mr. Gines while he was fully betrothed in the violent seizure episode,” Fadley writes. “Since Mr. Gines was in a violent seizure episode, he became aggressive towards the law-enforcement officer without awareness.”

The situation escalated to the point where the deputy “snatched Mr. Gines by his neck and shoulders and pinned him against the wall,” the attorney alleges. His client, still in a medical emergency, was unable to respond to the deputy’s verbal commands. “Thus, the law-enforcement officer vigorously and viciously took Mr. Gines to the ground,” Fadley writes.

“The law-enforcement officer continued to brawl with Mr. Gines and eventually was able to get handcuffs on,” he adds. “However, Mr. Gines continued to seize, so the officer sat on the legs and buttocks of Mr. Gines until other officers arrived.”

Gines, now 40, was arrested on charges of battery on a law-enforcement officer and resisting arrest, but the State Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute him for the alleged crime.

This “violent ambush” caused severe emotional and physical harm to the patient, Fadley alleges. The lawsuit claims the attorney attempted to secure a financial settlement out of the court from the Sheriff’s Office to no avail. Fadley is now demanding a trial by jury.

There is an expectation that law-enforcement consider a person’s physical and medical condition when making an arrest, Fadley told Vero Beach 32963.

“If it turns out the standard is grab them and slam them, whatever you want to do, then we’ll get to that,” said the attorney who is awaiting a legal response from the Sheriff’s Office and has yet to depose hospital staff. “At this point I certainly feel [Gines] . . . was treated wrongly given his medical condition, and that he needs a voice in this situation.”

Russell’s version of events is detailed in an arrest affidavit written by the deputy in January 2014. It states he was at the Indian River Medical Center Emergency Room working an extra-duty detail around 2 a.m. when he heard a disturbance.

Russell claims he saw Gines jumping up and down in room 18 using the reflection on a glass door. The patient then ran into the hallway, jumped on a stretcher and started waving his arms above his head, the deputy recalls in his report.

Russell says he approached Gines wearing his deputy’s uniform, and as he reached for his radio to call for help, Gines jumped off the stretcher and struck him in the head with a blanket.

“He then pushed the blanket into my face with both hands,” the officer writes. “I grabbed him around the neck and shoulders and pinned him against wall. He continued to scream and fight to get free at which time I directed him to the floor.”

Emergency Department staff eventually helped Russell secure the defendant in handcuffs, he says.  Russell then sat on Gines’ legs and buttocks until back up arrived. “The defendant suffered no injury as result of the arrest or struggle,” he claims in the warrant. “I sustained a laceration to my left elbow.”

Indian River Medical Center did not return a request for comment on the incident.

The Gines complaint is the second excessive force lawsuit filed against the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office by Fadley since December. Such cases can take years to litigate.

Frederick Luongo, of Vero Beach, was also improperly arrested when he was “violently and forcefully” smashed into his vehicle during a 2013 traffic stop, the attorney alleges in court documents filed with the 19th Judicial Circuit.

The Sheriff’s Office has moved to dismiss the Luongo case, which is now in federal court, denying any wrongdoing.

Southern District Court Judge Jose Martinez ordered Luongo’s attorneys to show additional cause by Feb. 28 in order for the case to go forward.

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