SCRANTON, Pa (CN) – Parents say police officers Tasered and pepper-sprayed their son to death as he suffered from diabetic hallucinations, then denied their pleas for medical assistance, and told them their son was “faking it and holding his breath.”
Larry Berry Sr. and Shirley Berry say that when they begged the officers to call for medical assistance for their son, Larry Berry Jr., the cops instead “directed and accompanied the Berrys into the residence and engaged in an interrogation of them and entered the basement so that the other defendant officers present could conduct a nonconsensual search of the residence.”
The Berrys say the officers knew that use of excessive force and restraint on their 33-year-old son – including a Taser and Mace or pepper spray – could give him a lethal heart attack because the officers had responded to 911 a call for his diabetic hallucinations 6 months earlier.
Within minutes of the officers’ use of excessive force and restraint on her son, Shirley Berry says she found him lying on his side in their driveway, hands cuffed behind his back, with three officers standing next to him.
“Upon discovering her son lying in the driveway and observation of his condition,” Berry says, she “informed the defendant officers that the decedent was a diabetic and requested that the officers check his pulse, however, the defendant officers ignored her plea and, instead, ordered her to leave the area.”
When her husband told the officers that their son was not breathing, “He received only a single response from the defendant officers who disagreed, without confirmation, and said that the decedent was breathing,” according to the complaint.
“After Mrs. Berry implored the defendant officers that the decedent appeared dead, to discontinue the restraint and to summon or call for medical assistance because the decedent was not breathing, one of the defendant officers patronizingly said decedent was breathing because he observed steam coming from the decedent’s mouth and then claimed that the decedent was faking it and holding his breath.”
The Berrys say after “a lengthy period of time elapsing with Mrs. Berry imploring the defendant officers that the decedent was not breathing, and while [their son was] being exposed to temperatures at around zero degrees Fahrenheit, after Mr. Berry again made the same request that medical assistance be summoned and/or provided, one defendant officer unhandcuffed the decedent, rolled him over onto his back, recuffed him and again indicated, contrary to Mr. Berry’s observations and without confirmation, that the decedent had a pulse and was still breathing because steam was rising from his mouth.”
The Berrys say it took nearly an hour for the Westfall Township Volunteer Fire Department to take their son to the hospital after being dispatched by the 911 communication center.
When the fire department arrived, they found that Berry Jr. “had no respiratory function, pulse or blood pressure” and he was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital, according to the federal complaint.
The Berrys say the officers’ use of “excessive and extreme force and detention of [their son] and the uncontrolled, unwarranted and illegal ‘manhandling,’ verbal and mental abuse and lack of medical attention and care” caused his death.
They add that the “officers conspired with one another to cover up their actions which directly contributed to the death” of their son.
They seek punitive damages for civil rights violations, detention and confinement violations, negligence, failure to adequately train and supervise, illegal search and seizure, wrongful death, assault, battery, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, false arrest, false imprisonment, civil conspiracy and vicarious liability.
Defendants include the Eastern Pike Regional Police Department, its supervisory Commission, Police Chief Chad Stewart, and other officers.
The Berrys are represented by Robert Buttner, Craig Kalinoski and Robert Reno.