Police Assault Deaf, Mentally Disabled Man After He Failed to Respond to Audible Commands in Mobile, Alabama


On July 24, 2009, a deaf man in a Mobile store bathroom was attacked by police with a Taser gun and pepper spray after he failed to respond to police knocking on the door. Officers forcibly removed 37-year-old Antonio Love from the Dollar General store and attempted to book him on charges of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and failure to obey a police officer, even after they learned that Mr. Love could not hear them knocking on the door.

Police were called to the store after someone reported that a man had been in the bathroom for over an hour. Mr. Love had a badly upset stomach and entered the store to use the restroom. Officers pounded on the door, but got no answer from Mr. Love, who is deaf.

They then sprayed pepper spray under the door and attempted to force their way inside. Mr. Love, who also has mental disabilities, did not realize it was the police and attempted to hold the door closed. After forcing their way inside with a tire iron, the police shot Mr. Love with a Taser gun.

Christopher Levy, a police department spokesman, said the officers’ use of force was justified because Mr. Love had an umbrella.

Even though federal disabilities law requires law enforcement to seek a translator, no credentialed interpreter was ever made available. Mr. Love was never informed that he had the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

Officers took Mr. Love to jail and attempted to book him on resisting arrest and other charges, but the magistrate judge on duty refused to issue a warrant. The officers then dropped Mr. Love off in the parking lot of his family’s apartment building without explaining what had happened or why Mr. Love had been missing for over six hours. “When he walked in, his shirt was ripped, and he was just in a daze,” Mr. Love’s brother, Brodrick Love, told The Press-Register. “When I went outside, they (the police) took off.” Mr. Love’s family has filed a formal complaint against the officers.

The officers’ decision to take Mr. Love to jail even after they discovered he is deaf and disabled is under investigation.