Thursday, October 21, 2004

Harassment case
against deaf man
is dismissed

City prosecutors dismissed a police harassment case yesterday against a deaf Vietnam War veteran, who has filed a lawsuit against the city over the incident.

City prosecutors dismissed a harassment case yesterday against Martin Swanson, 54, above. But the Vietnam War veteran has filed a suit against the city over the incident.

Martin Swanson, 54, was arrested Aug. 26 after an apparent misunderstanding with a police officer in a construction zone. Four of his ribs were broken when the officer wrestled him to the ground.

In the suit filed Oct. 12, Swanson alleged that officer Damon Taylor used excessive force and violated his civil rights in the arrest. Swanson also says he was falsely arrested.

Prosecutors dropped the misdemeanor harassment charge yesterday against Swanson, who lost his hearing and full use of one of his legs in an explosion during the Vietnam War.

"While we had probable cause," said Jim Fulton, the city prosecutor's executive assistant, "when we received the case again, we realized that we weren't gong to be able to prove (the charge) beyond a reasonable doubt."

Swanson, a U.S. Postal Service mail sorter, considered the dismissal a victory.

"He feels vindicated to some extent," said Owen Stanley, co-owner of the Pacific Hobbyist on King Street and a longtime friend. "Everybody's just surprised it took until today to make that decision."

In his suit, Swanson alleged he incurred medical expenses because of the arrest and that his injuries kept him out of work for more than a month. He also says police went overboard in arresting him and that the harassment charge should have been dismissed months ago.

An HPD spokeswoman could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The incident started about noon Aug. 26 when Swanson was walking on a Keeaumoku Street sidewalk toward his Beretania Street bus stop. At Keeaumoku's intersection with Young Street, Swanson says, he came across a sign that said the sidewalk was closed.

He says he decided to walk in the closed sidewalk because he was too tired to cross the street. That's when he thinks an officer started yelling at him to stop, but he is not sure.

The first indication he had that an officer was trying to get his attention was about halfway through the sidewalk, when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

When he turned around, he was facing an officer. Swanson says the officer was talking and making hand signals, none of which the veteran understood.

In addition to being deaf, Swanson cannot read lips and has never learned sign language.

According to his suit, Swanson told the officer he would turn around and cross the street. But when he got to the crosswalk, the officer stopped him again.

Swanson says the officer then made a hand signal, which the vet took as a request for identification.

When Swanson went to reach for his wallet in his front pocket, the officer allegedly spun him around, pushed him against a fence and kicked his legs out from under him.



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