published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Lawyer: Police roughed up stroke victim
Lawyer: Police roughed up stroke victim
ROXANNE BROWN | Staff Writer
An attorney may file suit against the Clermont Police Department unless it settles with his client, who was allegedly roughed up by officers because they thought she was drunk. Instead, she was having multiple strokes, the lawyer contends.
Attorney Christopher R. Largey of Tavares is weighing a personal injury claim and sent a certified letter to the police department on Wednesday on behalf of Christian "Christy" BonJorn, detailing what she said occurred on July 15 after 8 p.m. during a visit to West Beach for rollerblading.
"She (BonJorn) took her rollerblades off and was walking on the beach. She became light headed and she fell onto the ground," Largey said in the letter. "Unbeknown to Ms. BonJorn, she was experiencing a stroke. She could not get up and kept falling onto the ground with each attempt to stand."
According to Bonjorn, she had no idea what was happening to her. "I fell down and kept trying to get up, but my legs did not work. I kept falling back to the ground each time I tried to get up," she said, adding that the next thing she knew, a police officer arrived and began walking toward her, for what she assumed, was to help her.
According to police records, Officer David Johnson arrived on scene at 8:28 p.m.
The call was dispatched as an "S2" -- an individual appearing intoxicated -- based on a call from a witness at the park who'd caught sight of Bonjorn continuously falling over.
"This officer, who was sworn to protect and serve the citizens of Clermont, pushed away Ms. BonJorn's hand, grabbed her by the neck, threw her down on the beach, and put her legs and hands in restraints," Largey's letter goes on to say.
BonJorn said she remembers officers repeatedly asking her whether she was
"on something" and saw them search her car.
She also remembers asking, "What are you doing to me?" and wondering why she
was being accosted.
She said at that point, her claustrophobia kicked in and she became combative because she didn't know what was being done to her. "I couldn't understand what they were attacking me and I could hear other people telling them (officers) to leave me alone already because I wasn't doing anything," BonJorn said.
In his letter, Largey continued to write that, "The officer flipped her over and another police officer advised, based on the appearance of her face, (thought) that Ms. Bon Jorn may be experiencing a stroke. But despite this observation by the assisting offer, Ms. BonJorn was kept in restraints, hog-tied in the back of the police cruiser and transported to South Lake Hospital like an animal."
After an examination at the hospital, BonJorn said she was told by doctors that she'd had three strokes due to an infection in her heart. Following the incident, Bonjorn underwent six weeks of treatment and thus far, has remained in good health.
Clermont's Interim Police Chief Chuck Broadway said he knew nothing of the
incident before Largey's letter.
Since BonJorn was not arrested, no summary of the incident was required beyond the dispatch log detailing times and brief actions associated with the call as reported by the responding officer.
As Broadway pointed out, however, the log shows that after Johnson arrived on scene at 8:28 p.m., he made a request at 8:30 p.m. for assistance from Lake Sumter EMS.
The report also logged EMS on the scene at 8:36 p.m. and a call to the patient's parent at 8:45 p.m.
Then, at 8:51 p.m., the officer advised dispatch to reclassify the call to an "S92" -- a medical condition -- with a note that at 9 p.m. BonJorn was turned over to EMS for transport.
"The account given by Ms. BonJorn's attorney is inaccurate in regards to our involvement," Clermont Police Department Spokesperson Lt. Michael McMaster said in a press release. "Our involvement is that of upon the arrival of our officer(s) he came to the conclusion that Ms. BonJorn was not intoxicated but in need of medical attention which was immediately requested."
"Our officer(s) did not throw Ms. Bon Jorn down on the beach nor was she ever placed in a Clermont Police Department vehicle or "Hogtied." Ms. BonJorn was turned over to EMS/Fire personnel who secured and transported her to the Hospital."
Broadway said no formal complaint has ever been filed with the department by BonJorn, so no investigation on this matter has been conducted.
McMaster also said that all of the information the department has on the case has now been forwarded to their legal department for further review.
In accordance with his client's account, Largey called the treatment she received by police as "unacceptable."
"In this case, the patient was left in peril and treated poorly, to say the least. I mean they hogtied her, then when they realized she was having a stroke, they left her that way," Largey said. "And did they even call her to apologize or to make sure she was okay? No, instead, they brushed it under the rug as if it never happened. How can they just get away with what they did?"
BonJorn said her family is upset about what happened to her.
"I just feel like officers shouldn't be able to do that to people," BonJorn said.
Largey said police have six months to consider a settlement.