Demetrius Anderson is the African-American, gay, HIV+ man I wrote about who is suing the Blue Island, IL Police Department, alleging excessive force, malicious prosecution and hate crime-worthy verbal assault referring to his (supposed) religion, sexuality, mental health state and HIV status.
After learning of that post, Anderson's legal team contacted me and offered me the chance to read the actual court documents [pdf], listen to their side of the story and offer it to our readers.
I have read the complaint. I have listened to Anderson's legal counsel, asked questions and took notes. I have also contacted The Blue Island Police Dept and their attorney, James Brosnahan for comment. Brosnahan declined to comment at this time, having not read the fully amended complaint, but has offered to speak to me about it at a later date.
I have come to the conclusion that we should all know who Demetrius Anderson is- because he is me and he is you.
So Much More To It
For all the fantastic men and women who serve in law enforcement who are respectful, helpful, capable and well-trained, there are still ignorant, untrained law enforcement officers out there- I've met a few. Because they are out there, and worse, because some police departments don't train any of their officers properly, what happened to Demetrius Anderson could happen to me, it could happen to you.
"Until there is equal protection under the law, there will never be equal protection by the law," says Jon Erickson, one of Anderson's attorneys.
Of course, he's right, but there's so much more to it than that.
I have a personal gay-bashing story. So does my partner. So do several of our friends. None of them involve (to my knowledge) civil servants, health professionals or law enforcement as perpetrators.
And that's just as it should be. Police, firefighters and EMT's are here to provide for our safety, well-being and protection. Most of them do. In fact, it was a gruff Chicago cop who comforted me and a friend after we were attacked with the words "You guys weren't doing anything wrong- make sure you remember that."
But I also know that we are not where we could be as a society. Those charged to "serve and protect" sometimes fail to apply that across the board. Personal prejudices have a way of creeping into the job- any job. But I believe the people charged with my protection, who take home salaries paid by my taxes, have an obligation to be trained, educated and assisted to understand me, whoever I may be- on a variety of levels.
Is that failure true in this instance? Well, it's enough to create a case, and it's enough for the judge to specifically grant inclusion of hate crimes to the complaint.
Demetrius Anderson is a seriously mentally ill man, who suffers with debilitating depression, anxiety and perhaps other serious mental health disorders . On the morning of April 20th, 2009, Anderson attempted to end his life by stabbing himself in the chest with a knife.
His mother and sister, who witnessed the event, called 911, an ambulance and EMT crew arrived and treated Anderson, having been apprised of his mental illness and his HIV status. He was moving toward an ambulance for transport to the hospital. Anderson, already in a highly agitated state, became terrified, believing he was being committed. He left the scene, running down the street.
Unknown to him, two police officers were chasing him. He was shot with a taser in the back without warning, ordered to the ground at gunpoint with violent expletives, his limbs stepped upon to hold him down and handcuffed violently, causing physical injuries. He was placed in the ambulance accompanied by an officer who verbally abused him all the way to the hospital, especially with the words "animal", "retarded" and "fucking Muslim"(Demetrius Anderson is not a Muslim).
He was admitted to the hospital, treated and released into formal custody five days later. Upon booking, Anderson was confronted by the aforementioned officer who stated that the defendant should have picked up a rock so he had an excuse to shoot him. He continued to verbally abuse Anderson, specifically mentioning his sexuality and HIV status, concluding with the suggestion the defendant jump off a specific bridge so that he would succeed at suicide.
Anderson was charged with resisting arrest, in itself a grave commentary on the situation according to attorney Jon Erickson. "Officers took what should have been a simple first aid situation and turned it into brutality," he said.
I was not there. I have not heard from the defense in this case. I have only the details presented to me by the plaintiff's attorneys and the filed complaint.
One Thing Is Clear
If this is indeed what happened, or even close to what happened, it must be investigated fully and thoroughly and, if proven, Demetrius Anderson should be compensated for his unprofessional treatment. This is too grave an offense on too many levels to too many communities of persons- LGBT, HIV+, mentally ill, Muslim- for any of us to not care.
That is why it's important to know Demetrius Anderson, because he is me and he is you.
And you should give a shit.
Letter from Demetrius' lawyer is reprinted below.