Police who responded to an excessive noise complaint and found an Alzheimer’s patient “waving his arms and yelling” are now being sued for excessive force in the man’s death, reports KIRO TV.
The lawsuit filed by the man’s family is accusing Issaquah Police Department in Washington of breaking his neck and killing him.
Wang Shen Leng, 66, was a Chinese immigrant who did not speak any English. Police did not know at the time that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a disease that not only affects the memory but can make the patient combative and physically aggressive.
Officers assumed they had walked into a domestic abuse and cuffed him. Leng’s wife also does not speak English.
“The police proceeded to come in, to separate the two, and to force Mr. Leng down onto the couch–pushing on his neck in such a way that it ended up breaking his neck,” Harry Williams, an attorney for Leng’s family, said to KIRO. Leng would die a month later.
According to Hop Clear, the medical examiner blamed Leng’s death on
“aspiration pneumonia due to post-traumatic syringomyelia cervical spinal cord that was due to blunt force injury of the neck.” The lawsuit said the coroner deemed the death a homicide, a fact confirmed by the Seattle Times.
Hop Clear reports it is not known if police called a language line officers use for bilingual assistance.
“Officers attempted to detain Mr. Leng to safely continue their investigation,” a statement released by the police said. “Due to Mr. Leng’s resistance, the officers held him by the arms and moved him to a couch to safely handcuff him. After handcuffing Mr. Leng the officers determined that the incident was of a medical nature and summoned medical assistance. Eastside Fire and Rescue responded to the scene and determined to transport Mr. Leng to the hospital for medical monitoring.”
“It’s just the saddest thing ever,” said David B. Owens, another attorney representing Leng’s widow, Liping Yang. “There is an important social-justice issue at the heart of the suit and we’re hoping we can bring a measure of justice to the family.”
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