Exclusive: Family Files Lawsuit Over Police Tasering

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CLEVELAND, Ohio—An elderly African-American couple and their son have filed a civil lawsuit against the Cleveland Clinic police department.

On behalf of the Hayward family, Cleveland-area civil rights attorney David Malik filed the suit in the United States District Court for the Northern Division on Tuesday afternoon.

In the early morning hours of January 23, 2011, Aaron Hayward, 39 of Cleveland was driving home near East 106th and Cedar. Family Attorney Donald Riemer says Cleveland Clinic police claim Hayward was traveling above the posted speed limit.

A short time later, the attorney says police claim Aaron made a wide turn without using a proper turn signal. According to Riemer, a Cleveland Clinic police officer followed Aaron to his house and approached him as he pulled in the driveway.

Riemer says when the officer asked Aaron to walk over towards his car, Aaron shouted obscenities at the officer and then walked into his family home.

Riemer says Aaron tried to fight back once officers rammed the front door. Aaron says he was tased for more than 30 seconds, before officers dragged him into the driveway and allegedly struck him with a baton and a taser.

"They were all traffic tickets, all they had to do was write up a citation and put it on the door. The law is clear, you don't have the right to break into someone's home without a warrant," said Riemer.

Taser video from the incident shows a taser being deployed against Aaron. It also reveals officers shouting at Aaron's parents demanding to see identification.

At one point, an officer can be heard telling Aaron's mother, "I'm going to break your teeth and then punch you in the mouth," during the confrontation, Aaron's mother 79-year-old Annie Hayward said, "I relive it quite often, a lot of nights I don't sleep at all."

"It just tore me apart. I was never used to anything like that," said Aaron's father, 85-year-old Essex Hayward.

The lawsuit claims the force used by the officers during a warrant-less entry constituted an illegal home invasion performed without the consent of the family.

The lawsuit further alleges that the force used to gain entry was unreasonable and excessive, the use of the butt of the shotgun to break through a wooden entrance door and the use of a steel ASP baton to break through an outside security door window was unreasonable and excessive. The lawsuit also alleges the officer used racial epithets after taking Aaron Hayward into custody and claims the use of the taser against Aaron for more than 30 seconds was tortuous, unreasonable and excessive.

"Obviously it was painful, but the pain really came from how my parents are treated, how they are disrespected," said Aaron Hayward. "The 'average Joe' on the street could have handled that a lot more different than so-called law enforcement."

The Cleveland Clinic issued the following statement on the incident; "The Cleveland Clinic does not tolerate racist or illegal behavior and takes any such allegations very seriously. We thoroughly investigated the Haywards' allegations and determined they were untrue. In addition, the Haywards' lawsuit contains many inaccuracies and false accusations. Our police officers acted lawfully and with appropriate force in making the arrest of Aaron Hayward, who had threatened and assaulted our officers. He was indicted by the grand jury and pled guilty to charges. At no time did Cleveland Clinic police officers threaten violence to Mr. Essex or Mrs. Annie Hayward or use any racial slurs. We believe these allegations are meritless and we will vigorously defend against them in court."

Earlier this year, Aaron Hayward plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and failure to comply related to this incident.