Family of Venice homeless man plans to sue LAPD after Taser incident

Rob Hayes Image
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Family of Venice homeless man plans to sue LAPD after Taser incident
Cellphone video shows a handful of Los Angeles police officers tasering a mentally ill homeless man in Venice last August. Sam Arrington and his family plan to file a federal lawsuit against the department.

VENICE, Calif. (KABC) -- Cellphone video shows a handful of Los Angeles police officers tasering Sam Arrington then arresting him at Venice Beach last August. Arrington's family says the 52-year-old homeless man is mentally ill and has been targeted by LAPD over the past four years.

"He's been tased and beaten and the video speaks for itself," said attorney Nazareth Haysbert, who's representing Arrington and his family.

They're preparing to file a federal lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department. Haysbert says this confrontation is just the latest of four violent run-ins with LAPD officers. The first allegedly left Arrington with 18 staples in his head and another incident led to a shoulder injury. In the third incident, officers Tasered Arrington.

On Aug. 7, the fourth incident, LAPD officers spotted Arrington illegally vending in the area of Sunset Court and Ocean Front Walk and approached the suspect with a misdemeanor citation to sign. A physical altercation ensued and Arrington was Tasered multiple times, police said. Arrington was transported to a local hospital and admitted for treatment for elevated enzymes, LAPD said.

"They should have de-escalated the confrontation, not continue it, not escalate it with a man who was known to at least two of those officers as a man with a mental disability," Haysbert said.

Arrington was not part of Wednesday's announcement. His sister, Cleo Battle, says Arrington wouldn't have handled being on camera well. But the recording of his arrest, she says, demonstrates that police don't know how to deal with the mentally ill.

"I saw the video and I was repulsed by it. I was shaken to my core that the LAPD would strip away his humanity and that's what they've done to my brother," Battle said.

But at Venice Beach, vendors like Vivianne Robinson say the problem they've noticed most isn't police brutality in Venice but police absence.

"When I do see them they are not violent, but they need to be here a little more often. It just seems like they never seem to be here when things happen. They're always someplace else," Robinson said.

Haysbert says he hopes this case will help protect the mentally ill and homeless population.

"We also want to expose police misuse of power with regards to the most vulnerable people in our population, in our society," he said.

Haysbert says he will be filing that federal lawsuit, but refused to say how much in damages they'll be seeking.

The Los Angeles Police Department says it has initiated an Internal Affairs investigation and is continuing its investigation into the alleged use of force.

"If it is found that officers used excessive force we will take appropriate action," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in a press release.