A family is claiming that Cleveland police got unnecessarily violent with their son, who has Down syndrome.
In a lawsuit filed this week, Ramon Ortiz and Alma Perez say that police physically assaulted their son, Juan, 17, after a case of mistaken identity.
Their attorney, Subodh Chandra, told WJW-TV, “The Ortiz family was minding their own business. Young Juan Ortiz was sitting on the sidewalk, listening to his walkman.”
Ramon Ortiz alleges that police last August were investigating an armed robbery in the area when they approached Juan, grabbed him, and “slammed him into [Ortiz’s] car like a football player.” Ortiz added, “I thought [the officer] was going to kill him.”
Chandra said that the officers pinned Juan against the hot car until he “received a burn in his pubic area,” which they say required surgery.
Steve Loomis, Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President, was quoted as describing the incident as “unfortunate” but that police did not act out of line, saying that Juan was wearing similar clothing to what they were given in a description of the robbery perpetrator.
But Chandra claims the police exercised poor judgment as they allegedly had also been told the suspect was a white male “in their 50s or 40s” and Juan is a “4-foot 11-inch and 118 pound Latino child,” adding, “You have to wonder what’s wrong with them.”
The lawsuit is for unspecified damages to compensate the family for Juan’s supposed “lingering health problems” and they say the teen is “still traumatized and terrified of police.”