ATRIUM HEALTH LINCOLN EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT
Lincoln County Sheriff's Deputy punches handcuffed teen seeking help repeatedly outside ER
Published on Feb 15, 2020
LINCOLNTON, N.C. (WBTV) – Jessica Long took her son to the ER just after midnight on Sunday, December 8, 2019. He had received mental health treatment in the past and she was concerned he might need help that night.
When Long and her son got to the ER, he was angry and didn’t want to be there. She was afraid he might try to run away from the car, so she asked for a security guard to help get him in the building to be seen.
Video shows the guard came out of the ER and stood there for less than a minute before he grabbed the boy, shoved him to the ground and drew his taser. Surveillance video of the incident shows the boy got back up before the guard shoved him off the sidewalk and into the grass.
“At no point did they tell him to put his hands behind his back, to stand still, they never tried to deescalate the situation. They just immediately went for full-blown physical force,” Long said.
The guard still had his taser drawn when a second security guard showed up. At that point, the first guard holstered his taser and Long and her son went back towards her car.
Long wanted to move her car but wanted the guards to help her son get into the ER to receive treatment. Instead, the video shows, when her back was turned, the second security guard grabbed him by the neck from behind and jumped on top of him, tackling him to the ground.
Once the boy was on the ground, video shows pools of blood dripping from his mouth.
He stayed on the ground for more than five minutes with both guards on top of him. The video shows the guards stunned the boy with a taser twice.
“I was in shock! I didn’t know what to do,” Long recalled. “I was just kind of helpless to do much of anything.”
The video shows her standing near her son as he lay on concrete driveway in handcuffs, with both guards on top of him and blood dripping from his mouth.
That changed when four deputies with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office showed up.
The deputies told the guards to get off the boy and he was sat up.
The boy, who had a mouth full of blood, spit as he was sat up. In response to the boy spitting blood, the video shows a deputy punching the boy in the face twice.
That deputy - who was later identified as Justin Polson - was so irate, the video shows, he ran over to Long and began yelling at her before a second deputy pulled him away and ultimately pulled him to the ground to control him.
Lincoln County Sheriff Bill Beam said Polson did nothing wrong in punching a 16-year-old boy whose hands were cuffed behind his back.
“Deputy Polson had a reaction to a felonious assault,” Beam said. “Spitting in a law enforcement officer’s face - spitting blood in a law enforcement officer’s face - is a felonious assault and he had a right to stop that assault from occurring.”
In fact, Beam denied Polson punched the boy in the face at all.
“Your deputy punched a 16-year-old with his hands handcuffed behind his back, twice. Is that an appropriate use of force?” a WBTV reporter asked Beam.
“All I saw was once and he was pushing him back away,” Beam responded.
Beam said Polson was disciplined for his behavior towards Long but his personnel record does not reflect a suspension, demotion or transfer.
In his interview with WBTV, Beam defended the job his deputies did.
“They walked into a volatile situation that we were not a part of,” Beam said. “And our job is to take and try to calm things down and found out what the situation is occurring.”
The boy was arrested on the night of the incident and charged with multiple misdemeanors and one count of felony assault on a law enforcement officer. He was kept in juvenile detention for eight days.
His charges remain pending at the insistence of the sheriff’s deputies - including Polson, who punched the boy multiple times while his hands were cuffed behind his back.
“The people that I thought were going to help, they did nothing but make it worse,” Jessica Long said. “They created a situation that should have never happened.
An executive for Atrium, Maureen Swick, defended the action of the hospital security guards.
“The actions that the officers took to keep others safe and to keep him safe were appropriate,” Swick said.
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