CHICAGO (CN) – Indiana police officers do not have to stand trial for Macing and beating a man they thought was a drunken driver, but was actually diabetic and having a hypoglycemic episode, the 7th Circuit ruled.
On Aug. 24, 2006, Jerome Clement, an insulin-dependent, Type 1 Diabetic, experienced a sharp drop in blood sugar while driving to work. He turned off the road, drove into a recycling plant’s parking lot and came to rest on a truck scale. Clement was incoherent when a plant employee asked him to move his car.
East Chicago police were dispatched to the scene. Officers Jesus Arceo and Timothy Leimbach, who were told that Clement was potentially intoxicated, found him slouched over in his car, which they said smelled like stale beer. Clement was not wearing a diabetic necklace or bracelet.
Unable to rouse Clement, the officers physically removed him from the vehicle. Clement then kicked, flailed his arms, and jerked his head up and down, striking himself against the pavement. A bystander later said Clement had moved “like he was having … a seizure of some sort maybe.” He also reported that Clement’s eyes were rolled back and he was foaming at the mouth.
The officers Maced Clement twice and struck him with a baton in the arm and legs while trying to handcuff him. Since Clement was bleeding from his head, the officers then called for medical assistance.
When paramedics arrived 20 minutes later, they found Clement’s diabetes card and administered an injection of dextrose. Clement stopped breathing, but was revived on his way to the hospital.
Doctors diagnosed the man with acute cardiac and respiratory failure, severe hypoglycemia, and severe metabolic and respiratory acidosis. Testing revealed marijuana and a low presence of alcohol in his system. Clement died of natural causes two weeks after the arrest.
William Padula, the administrator of Clement’s estate, sued the officers, the city of East Chicago, and the East Chicago Police Department. He alleged wrongful arrest and excessive force, failure to train officers, and condoning and ratifying the use of excessive force.
But U.S. District Judge Joseph S. Van Bokkelen found the officers’ actions were justified, ruling that they had probable cause to believe Clement had been driving while intoxicated.
“In light of the circumstances and their reasonable belief that Clement was intoxicated, Officers Leimbach and Arceo were entitled to forcibly remove him from his car when he did not comply with their command to get out on his own,” Judge Joel Flaum wrote for a three-member panel.
The court’s hesitation to second-guess the snap judgments made by law enforcement, and the lack of evidence indicating the use of excessive force, led the three-judge panel to affirm the grant of summary judgment to the defendants.
“Since Padula’s underlying claims for wrongful arrest and excessive force failed, his claims for failure to train and for condoning and ratifying excessive force must also fail,” the decision states.
No officers were disciplined in connection with the incident.