A recent agreement between the city of Cleburne and a resident concerning an alleged unwarranted tasing incident involving a Cleburne police officer could help raise awareness of Type I diabetes, the resident’s attorney said.
The agreement, among other requirements, requires the Cleburne Police Department to screen a 20 minute American Diabetes Association video for all Cleburne officers titled “Treating Diabetes Emergencies: What Police Officers Need to Know” and to post a poster in the department containing information on how to recognize and address diabetic emergencies.
The incident occurred about noon April 9 on North Main Street, according to court filings.
Ricky Jones Jr., 19, of Cleburne collided into the car in front of him while in a hypoglycemic state, which is the result of his Type I diabetes, according to court filings.
Being in a hypoglycemic state incapacitated Jones before the wreck and up to the time he was tased by an officer, Jones’ attorney Jerry Murad Jr. said.
A Johnson County Sheriff’s Office deputy, identified as Deputy Dill in the court filing, arrived on scene before Cleburne police. Dill, according to court filings, turned the ignition of Jones’ car off and kept the key.
Dill allegedly told Cleburne police officer Jason Vanderlaan that “[Jones] hasn’t said one word since I been here.”
Within about 20 seconds of learning that Jones had not said anything, Vanderlaan allegedly threatened to tase him and did so about 23 seconds after that.
In a case filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas Dallas Division, Murad alleges that Jones at no time posed a threat, was outnumbered by officers at least two to one and was sitting motionless and nonresponsive in his vehicle in need of medical attention.
“Defendant Vanderlaan had not been properly trained by his employer, the city of Cleburne, in how to recognize these symptoms attributable to a person in a hypoglycemic state as a result of Type I diabetes,” Jones’ court filing reads. “In fact, based upon defendant Vanderlaan’s incident report it is clear that he is, was not aware of symptoms of hypoglycemia. To the contrary, he was looking for a fruity odor from the plaintiff, which is not a symptom of hypoglycemia.
“Had defendant city of Cleburne afforded proper training to its police officers such as defendant Vanderlaan, the apparent problem of non-compliance on the part of plaintiff Jones could have been handled through the offering of hard sweet candy to raise plaintiff Jones’ blood sugar levels. No force was required in this situation.”
Sweet breath, or a fruity smell is indicative of hyperglycemia but not hypoglycemia, Murad said.
The parties reached agreement earlier this month before the case went to trial. In addition to CPD agreeing to hang the poster and screen the instructional video, Jones received about $5,000 in settlement under the agreement, Murad said.
“It’s not about the money,” Murad said. “What excites me is the training requirement part, which I think can do some good. The objection was not to go after anyone, but officers really need to know about diabetes and [CPD] could be a tremendous asset if they realize they made a mistake and learned from the experience. There’s been too many Taser incidents throughout the country.”
The poster is already up in the police department. Cleburne Interim Police Chief Amy Knoll directed inquiries into the incident to Cleburne City Manager Rick Holden.
Holden confirmed that Vanderlaan remains employed with CPD. Holden declined to comment further other than to say that the agreement reached was probably in the best interest of everyone involved.