Deaf Woman Tasered, Jailed By Police

Lashonn White, who is deaf, contacted 911 after a guest reportedly started attacking her in her apartment on the night of April 6. But instead of getting help, Tacoma police used a stun gun on her and imprisoned her for three days without access to an interpreter, says KIRO. But it was only after spending 60 hours in jail that a prosecutor dropped the charges against White.

Under Washington state law, all individuals who are hearing-impaired must be provided with an interpreter soon after being arrested as well as during any investigation. Says state code RCW 2.42.120 (5):

“If a hearing impaired person is arrested for an alleged violation of a criminal law, the arresting officer or the officer’s supervisor shall, at the earliest possible time, procure and arrange payment for a qualified interpreter for any notification of rights, warning, interrogation, or taking of a statement.”

But failing to provide White with an interpreter is only one violation that she endured. After studying the transcript of the 911 call and other police records, a KIRO investigative reporter, Chris Halsne, found significant discrepancies in the accounts.

White has been deaf since birth. On the night of April 6, after she was reportedly attacked, she contacted 911 using a special video-equipped phone that is connected to a TV and a Web camera. A certified American Sign Language interpreter verbally conveyed White’s request for help to a Tacoma police dispatcher.

Police records indicate that the two Tacoma police officers who were dispatched, Ryan Koskovich and his partner, Michael Young, had been repeatedly told that White was deaf. White herself made this clear on the 911 call, explaining that she would not be able to hear the police knocking on the door and asking where she should go to meet the police.

According to KIRO, White ran out to meet police. Within just a few seconds, Koskovich fired his Taser into her rib and stomach.

“All I’m doing is waving my hands in the air, and the next thing I know, I’m on the ground and then handcuffed. It was almost like I blacked out. I was so dizzy and disoriented,” White said.

White suffered heavy bleeding from her knuckles and swelling on the right side of her face from falling on the pavement. According to KIRO investigators, she also suffered injuries to her cheek, chin, ribs, neck and arms.

But worse for White was the “incredible confusion that came with suddenly being handcuffed, under arrest and without the ability to communicate with Tacoma officers, who had no sign language skills”:

“The next thing I know, they took me to jail. Told me to stand up, you’re going to jail. I said, ‘What? What have I done?’ I couldn’t figure it out. I had no idea what was going on,” said White.

The two police officers submitted “near-identical” reports, says KIRO. Koskovich wrote that he had  ”yelled for White to ‘stop’ and held [his] right hand up to signal for White to stop” but that she had “ignored [his] commands” and also ”was making a loud grunting noise, had a piercing stare in her eyes and had a clenched right fist in the air.”

Neighbors who witnessed the incident dispute this account, pointing out that they told police that White was deaf and denying that Koskovich held up his hand as a signal for White to stop running. One neighbor, Margaret Sims, told KIRO that “They had tased her because he thought she was coming at him, but what she was doing was running to him. But he said, ‘stop’ and he didn’t put his hand up. He just said, ‘stop’ and she couldn’t understand that.”

KIRO police conduct consultant and former Bellevue police chief Don Van Blaricom reviewed the official police report as well as witness and police accounts and concluded that the officer’s reports “were obviously written in concert, after the fact, to CYA.” Why, he asked, would White “run at police in an assaultive manner when she had asked for them to be there and was going out to meet them?”

Will the police own up to the discrepancies in their accounts?

At the very least, the Tacoma police should use the unnecessary tasering of White as a reason to make sure that all officers receive extensive training about individuals with disabilities and the need for accommodations — and why, in such cases, they should not reach first of all for their Taser.

Take Action: Sign the petition to ask for justice for Lashonn White.


Related Care2 Coverage

U.S. Border Patrol Continues Brutal Policies

Police Argue Tasers Are “Useful Pain Technique”

Another Argument For Learning Sign Language


Photo by davehighbury


Cesia Ovando
Past Member 3 years ago

Really Sad

Brian F.
Brian F5 years ago

This is indicative of the police state that we have become. Police all over the nation are on this big power trip, and think they are above the law. These two cops were told the women was deaf, and yet they still tasered her, and arrested her. Fire these two incompetent police officers, and I hope she sues this corrupt police department.

Kay Redmon
Kay Redmon5 years ago

This goes to show how a Uniform can make people feel as though they are above the law itself. They were told the woman was deaf & what did they think she was going to do to them ??? assault two Officers !! a frightened woman who had called for help to be stunned with a gun that caused injuries to her & hand cuffed like a common criminal..If the situation wasn't so serious you could be excused for laughing. To be held for such a long period of time with no-one to help plead her case is inexcusable. The two Officers involved obviously compared notes to try to come up with some story that seemed plausible, but failed miserably. I hope the woman sues the Officers for negligence & assault, as is her right. It shows there is something wrong in the whole department when situations like this occur.If it looks like a dead rat, smells like a dead rat, you can be sure it is a dead rat..that's what these two are, they don't deserve to wear the Uniform of Office. If you can't get help from the Police when it's needed, where do you get it ?? The story didn't tell if the Police in question even bothered to find out the reason behind the call, therefore another would be criminal is walking the streets, waiting for another victim...I would like to think they at least felt ashamed of themselves, but I doubt it..Cold comfort for the poor woman..

Ambrose Dannels
Ambrose Dannels5 years ago

"Community we protect" really no way its "community we abuse"

Jason S.
Jason S.5 years ago

When Public Enemy wrote "911 is a joke" they had no idea how much credit they were giving these, undereducated, hyper-violent, cowardly a-holes.

Gabriel Estep
Gabriel Estep5 years ago

I am deaf ... those Police THINKS THEY ARE THE LAW. they are forgetting something. GOVERNMENT IS THE MORE POWER LAW THAN THEM! I can get my lawyer walk into the government with me and get the police Law changed to get all Human beings equality instead of RACISM or DISABLITY VOILENCE!

Ruth R.
Ruth R5 years ago

Ban tasers.
Less police.

Ruth R.
Ruth R5 years ago

"Ruth, You signed on May 18, 2013."

Hope that there will be a change towards police being kind, gentle and giving good guidance to people.

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Katie Shafer
Past Member 5 years ago

This is absurd. Almost as bad as the little old lady getting tased. Cops with HUGE EGO's that like to use force first and ask questions later. Hope they were penalized for the incident and had there faces all over the papers. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out she was totally deaf and yet they didn't provide her with and interrupter.