Friday, January 30, 2015

Suit: Elderly man tasered 6 times after being mistaken for his brother

(Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer)
(Ron Tarver / Staff Photographer)

An elderly Pennsylvania man was tasered by police not once, not twice, but six times in a Wal-Mart parking lot after being mistaken for his brother, according to a suit filed in federal court.

According to the suit, Robert Gross, 76, had driven his brother, Carl Gross Sr., to see Carl’s granddaughter Aug. 21, 2012 at an Allentown hair cutting salon.

Carl walked into the Cost Cutters on the 1000 block of Millcreek Road. When Carl did not return after 10 minutes, Robert Gross decided to walk to the nearby phone store to see what it might cost to replace his cell phone. Shortly after getting out of his pickup truck he encountered two Berks Lehigh police officers, the suit states.

The officers began shouting and screaming.  When they reached Robert  they threw him to the ground on his chest. When Gross asked what was going on, the police replied “you know.”

Gross, of Schnecksville, didn’t “know,” according to the suit. When he asked again, the police allegedly tasered him a half-dozen times before cuffing him and pulling him to his feet. As they stuffed him into the back of their police cruiser, he spotted another set of officers arresting his brother, Carl.

Police explained events began when they received a call from the Cost Cutters hair salon reporting  that an older man was causing trouble for another family member.  The man was Carl Gross Sr.

“We argued that the cops mistook him (Robert) for his brother and tried to take him into custody,” said attorney Kathryn Elizabeth Roberts, who represented Gross during the bench trial. “They didn’t dispute that they tasered him. They didn’t dispute that he got slammed face down to the ground.”

Robert Gross was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, according to court records.

At a bench trial soon after, the officers “were very adamant that Mr. (Robert) Gross was argumentative and belligerent and trying to punch them,” Roberts said. “Mr. Gross was equally adamant that nothing like that happened.”

He was found guilty of disorderly conduct by a Lehigh Co. Court of Common Pleas judge.

After the arrests, Carl’s son had his father committed to a mental health facility for treatment of dementia, according to attorney Kathryn Elizabeth Roberts.

Last week, Gross filed suit alleging assault, battery, and deprivation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, names officers Dathan Schlegel, Michael J. Sinko and Nicholas Morris. Gross is seeking unspecified damages. 


Contact Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or samwood@phillynews.com. Follow @samwoodiii on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

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