COLUMBIA, S.C. — Attorneys for an autistic teen who was allegedly stunned with a stun gun 17 times by a former Pickens County sheriff’s deputy filed a civil lawsuit against the deputy and the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday.
A video provided by the Anastopoulo Law Firm shows an officer using a stun gun on Aaron Vasquez, who is non-verbal, on Aug. 20, 2021. The then-17-year-old fell to the ground as the officer continued to stun him for about five minutes.
“It is an egregious case of abuse,” said attorney Roy T. Willey IV during a news conference Wednesday afternoon outside the Federal Courthouse in Greenville.
Deputy James William Trotter was fired and is facing charges of second-degree assault and battery and misconduct in office, court records show.
The law firm said Vasquez’s family reported him missing on Aug. 30, 2021. Law enforcement also had a call from someone who said they saw a young man walking down the road, clothed in pajamas that were put on backward.
“The caller indicated that Aaron was not able to speak when he interacted with him and that it seemed as if ‘something is wrong with him’ as he was ‘wearing pajamas backward.’ The caller even noted that ‘Ma’am he looks young.’ The caller, clearly concerned about Aaron, can even be heard telling him not to walk a specific way down the road for his own safety, the lawsuit states.
When Trotter responded, he called Vasquez “Sanchez” and “Gomez,” and then stunned him. The video, recorded from Trotter’s body camera, shows Vasquez lying on his back looking at the officer after the first stun.
The officer repeatedly says, “What’s your name? Name? Name?” Vasquez does not respond.
“The video shows Aaron never posed a threat or attempted to flee,” the law firm said in a news release.
Trotter claimed Vasquez hit him, first to a second responding officer and then to Vasquez’s father.
Vasquez was handcuffed and arrested on the side of the road, with his pants pulled down.
The officer in his squad car says to a dispatcher, “He’s on some kind of drug,” the video shows.
“This is not the first excessive tasing carried out by the Pickens Sheriff Department dating back to 2015 when an innocent 65-year-old man in a wheelchair was tased in his own home,” the law firm’s press release said.
The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office requested the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to investigate on Sept. 3, 2021 and Trotter was charged Jan. 25.
He is free on a personal recognizance bond, court records show.
Pickens County Sheriff’s Office Chief Chuck James said his office could not comment because it is an ongoing legal matter.
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