07/16/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Tara Monks // Tara Monks
Mt. Lebanon, PA – An epileptic woman filed a federal lawsuit against the Mount Lebanon police department Thursday, July 15, 2010, complaining that while she was in a time of need, police used excessive force and violated her civil rights, as reported by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Jessica Yochum is suing for false arrest and filing false criminal charges as well.
Yochum reported she was working at Houlihan’s at the Galleria when she experienced an epileptic seizure in February. Her co-workers called 911 and told dispatchers she was seizing.
When emergency responders from the Medical Rescue Team South Authority ambulance service and Mt. Lebanon police arrived, they shackled her and restrained her head. Police accused her of being high on cocaine.
Yochum, 23, inadvertently bit an ambulance worker in the midst of her seizure. Police charged her with aggravated assault for the bite, even after they learned she was an epileptic and was not on any illegal drugs.
The case was finally dismissed by a magisterial district judge, but Yochum filed the lawsuit against the parties involved. The individuals named are emergency responders Gregory Petro and Richard Weisner, as well as Officer Jeffrey Frolo.
Yochum’s attorney explained that standard protocol is to leave a seizing person alone, as long as they are not in danger of harming themselves or others. He said, “The last thing you want to do is apply force…It is well-known a person in a seizure will respond aggressively to that kind of treatment,” referring to the authorities’ use of restraint.
Pictures taken shortly after the incident show large bruises on Yochum’s legs and arms, along with cuts from the handcuffs and shackles.
Yochum and her parents are reportedly most angry with the treatment she received after the incident. Yochum’s father explained, “There were 14 different times in this thing that they had a chance to stop what they were doing and apologize,” referring to the assault charges.
Neither officials at MRTSA, nor the police department would comment as of Thursday, as they had not yet seen the lawsuit.
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