John Harmon was coming off a late night at work when he left his downtown marketing firm for his Anderson Township home just after midnight in October 2009. The 52-year-old longtime diabetic’s blood sugar levels had dipped to a dangerously low level causing him to weave into another lane. A Hamilton County sheriff’s deputy spotted him on Clough Pike and suspected drunken driving.
What happened over the next two minutes and 20 seconds should never happen to anyone, Harmon said. Deputies broke the window of Harmon’s SUV, shocked him seven times with a Taser, cut him out of his seatbelt and wrestled him to the ground, severely dislocating his elbow, and causing trauma to his shoulder and thumb.
The deputies’ actions prompted a state highway patrol trooper to pull one deputy away from Harmon because he was so concerned about how Harmon was being treated. That trooper alerted his bosses to the deputies’ actions. Even after learning the incident was a medical emergency, deputies charged Harmon with resisting arrest and failing to comply with a police officer’s order.
“I thought for sure I was going to die,” Harmon said. “I remember praying to God, ‘Help me through this.'” Harmon, a tall and burly black man, owns a marketing company with his wife. He said he moved to the mostly white township for its good schools, and said he believes he wouldn’t have gotten the same treatment if it was a white man.
“I do think that maybe (race) was a factor,” Harmon said. “Just out of common decency some of the things that were done here don’t make sense, even if I were drunk.” Harmon and his wife, Stephanie Harmon, filed a civil rights lawsuit Dec. 20 in U.S. District Court against Hamilton County, the sheriff’s office and four deputies: Ryan Wolf, Matthew Wissel, John Haynes and Shawn Cox, and their supervisor, Sgt. Barbara Stuckey.
The couple allege that Harmon’s civil rights were violated because of his false arrest, malicious prosecution and the excessive force used. They also cited battery; malicious prosecution; intentional infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium. They want an unspecified amount of compensation. Settlement talks that started with a demand of more than $1 million deteriorated earlier this month. That’s when Harmon filed the lawsuit. A sheriff’s office investigation found excessive force was used, and four of the officers involved were punished.
The deputies involved were asked through sheriff’s officials to comment. None returned calls.
Damn, we hope he gets the settlement he deserves. Shady fuggin cops.