An innocent, deaf woman in Washington called 911 for help. She didn’t get help. Instead, she got tased and arrested.
Lashonn White was in jail for about three days without an interpreter, despite two State laws requiring law enforcement to appoint an interpreter for deaf suspects.
White was attacked in her apartment on April 6. Although she is deaf, White was able to communicate with a 911 dispatcher using a phone equipped with special video capabilities connected to a TV.
“Right now! This is serious! She’s fighting at me, then she chokes me. She’s coming right at me!” White said on the night of her attack.
Dispatch logs show that two officers from the Tacoma police force, Ryan Koskovich and Michael Young, responded to the scene within about six minutes. They received texts on their way with the messages, “Person doing the hitting is a Sophia,” and “Vict. is Lashonn White.” Police records also reveal that the officers were informed that White is deaf.
This was the conversation when police arrived:
White: “I’m deaf. I can’t hear if they’re out front knocking or whatever … I can’t—are they going to the front or back? Where are the police at?”
Dispatch: “They want her to go outside the front door.”
White: “Oh, they’re here? Okay, I’m on my way to meet them. I’m going right now.”
When White walked out the door she was tased. Her body fell to the pavement causing her multiple injuries. She was then arrested and taken to jail.
Koskovich said he tased White because she “ignored my commands.”
Margaret Sims, a neighbor who witnessed the incident, explained to KIRO Seattle: “They had tased her because he thought she was coming at him, but what she was doing was running to him. But he said, ‘stop’ and he didn’t put his hand up. He just said, ‘stop’ and she couldn’t understand that.”
Another resident of the apartment complex, Geraldine Warren, described the ordeal in similar terms. “They just told her to halt. She kept running, she can’t hear—she’s deaf.”
Tacoma police have not responded to the incident.