By Carson Gerber For the Pharos-Tribune
---- — INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Court of Appeals Tuesday reversed a decision by a Cass County judge requiring the Peru Police Department to rehire an officer who last year Tased a nursing home resident with Alzheimer’s disease.
The Peru Board of Works terminated officer Gregory Martin last August after determining he used excessive force against 64-year-old James Howard, a resident at Miller’s Merry Manor Nursing Home in Peru who has advanced-stage Alzheimer’s.
Martin deployed a Taser on Howard for 31 seconds in a 65-second period in June after officers and nursing home employees said Howard was combative and wouldn’t obey commands to enter an ambulance to go to the hospital.
The board determined Howard wasn’t a threat, and Martin deployed his Taser longer than was necessary.
Martin filed an appeal to the decision in September, claiming the city should award back pay, wages and benefits accrued since he was fired.
Cass County Superior Court II Judge Rick Maughmer ruled in March to reverse the board’s decision. He said in a written order there was no evidence to support the board’s finding that Martin used more force than was necessary under the circumstances.
Maughmer said Martin utilized the Taser in an effort to minimize injury to Howard, and followed police policy that determines the use of a Taser.
The Indiana Court of Appeals Tuesday reversed that decision, saying in a written order Martin went against police training requiring officers to avoid using a Taser on an “elevated-risk population” unless necessary and justifiable.
The court said deploying the Taser five times for 31 seconds on an “elderly naked man in a nursing home, imminently destined for a hospital” didn’t allow time for Howard to comply with police orders and greatly increased the chances of serious injury or death.
The Tasing incident spurred state legislators to pass a bill earlier this year introduced by Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, requiring all state law enforcement officers to undergo training for dealing with Alzheimer’s patients.
Friend said in an interview in January he was dismayed when he learned of the Taser incident from Howard’s family. He said Howard’s family asked him to create specific legislation for officers dealing with Alzheimer’s patients.
The city also awarded Howard’s wife, Virginia, a monetary settlement earlier this year after she sued the city and police department, claiming they were responsible for possible neurological damage to her husband.
She also said she suffered extreme emotional trauma from seeing her husband’s injuries and “having the details of the torturous incident conveyed to her.”