A sexagenarian, who got paralyzed from the neck down after an Atlanta police officer tased him during an encounter, was on Friday awarded $100 million after a jury determined the law enforcement official used excessive force.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jerry Blasingame, 69, fell down and fractured his neck after he was tased. In the aftermath of the July 2018 incident, Keith Edwards, who is Blasingame’s conservator, filed a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta as well as officer Jon Grubbs. The plaintiff’s attorneys argued that the defendants should cover Blasingame’s past and future medical bills.
Blasingame’s attorneys said the officer violated department policies when he tased the elderly man. Blasingame was running away from Grubbs when he deployed the taser. The Black man’s attorneys allege the police officer’s actions resulted in the Black man having to spend the remainder of his life with unrecoverable injuries.
“We are very, very grateful to this amazing jury and so proud of the amazing work they’ve done in holding this officer accountable and getting justice for Mr. Blasingame,” Ven Johnson, who is Blasingame’s attorney, said.
The July 2018 encounter occurred when Grubbs and his colleague saw Blasingame asking people for money near Windsor Street, the suit stated. The elderly man, who was unarmed, was having a conversation with a driver when he was approached by Grubbs.
Blasingame left the street and moved to a guard rail after Grubbs exited their patrol vehicle, the suit claimed, adding that the police officer then chased the Black man.
“Grubbs gets out of the car and starts chasing my client — a 65-year-old man— and for what? For potentially asking people for money?” Johnson said.
Grubbs later tased Blasingame. This caused the elderly man to “fall and seriously injure himself.”
“Due to the tase and subsequent fall, Mr. Blasingame became unconscious and was bleeding profusely from his head,” the lawsuit alleged. Blasingame was later taken to a hospital for treatment.
“You run from the police, you get what you sow. That’s what some people think. But that’s not so,” Johnson said in his closing argument on Thursday.
Johnson said the injury has made his client a “prisoner in his own body.” The attorney also said his client sustained a severe spinal cord injury, and he cannot use all his limbs as a result.
Johnson also said Blasingame’s medical bills currently stands at $14 million. The elderly man’s future medical bills are also expected to cost around $1 million annually.
“Jerry Blasingame matters,” Johnson said. “Jerry Blasingame, and his suffering.”
Johnson said Grubbs’ actions violated department policy because the policy partly stipulates that officers shouldn’t deploy tasers on anyone “actively running on foot from officers on hard surfaces or rugged terrain, visibly pregnant women, the elderly, small children, or visibly frail persons unless exigent circumstances exist.”
Grubbs was placed on administrative leave in the aftermath of the incident, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. But he was reinstated months later.
“This is how an officer gets away with excessive force,” Johnson told the jury. “You bury it.”
The money awarded to Blasingame covers both compensatory and punitive damages. The jury determined Grubbs should be liable for $40 million while the city should be liable for $60 million.