PITTSBURGH (CN) – Pennsylvania State Police Tasered an unarmed, mentally disabled man who smelled of gasoline, and – as might be expected – the man “burst into flames from head to toe” and burned to death, his family claims in Federal Court.
The late Levi Mohney’s family sued the state, its police force, and five named officers.
The family claims that Trooper Robert Hageter, Cpl. Allen Carmichael and Cpl. Louis Davis knew that Mohney was mentally ill, as he had threatened to kill himself twice before the fatal incident on March 18, 2009.
But when Mohney refused to leave his girlfriend’s mobile home, the officers did not call a Crisis Intervention Team trained to deal with people suffering from mental or emotional disability, the family says.
Instead, “Defendant Carmichael using his ASP baton smashed the glass of the sliding door,” the complaint states. Carmichael then entered the mobile home, followed by Hageter and Davis.
“Despite having knowledge that Levi Mohney was suffering from a disability, defendants Davis, Carmichael and Hageter rushed into the mobile home and immediately began yelling to Levi Mohney to get on the ground. At the time these orders were being yelled at Levi Mohney, he was not armed, not actively resisting, and posed no threat to any of the troopers who entered the mobile home,” the complaint states.
“When Levin Mohney did not go to the ground as ordered by defendants Carmichael, Hageter and Davis, defendant Hageter deployed his Taser weapon and fired it at Levi Mohney. The Taser was used in ‘barb’ mode and the Taser barbs made contact with Levi Mohney’s chest.
“Immediately upon the Taser barbs making contact with Levi Mohney, he suddenly burst into flames from head to toe. He became totally engulfed in flames, ran out of the mobile home, eventually falling to the ground. Eventually the flames were extinguished but Mohney had suffered serious burns over 98 percent of his body. Mohney succumbed to the injuries caused by the burns several hours later.
“Prior to the arrival of defendants Hageter, Carmichael and Davis, Levi Mohney had put gasoline on his clothes. There was a sufficient amount of gasoline on his clothes and in a container that he was holding that defendants Carmichael, Davis and Hageter should have been aware that gasoline had either been applied to Levi Mohney’s clothing or was in the immediate area.”
Taser International explicitly warns not to fire Taser guns near flammable materials, the family says.
Shawn Mohney, the executor of Levi’s estate, says the Pennsylvania State Police did not adequately train its officers to deal with mentally disabled people.
The family seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations and wrongful death.
They are represented by Patrick Geckle of Philadelphia.