One former police officer and one current member of the force — both with a history of litigation surrounding their arrest tactics — have been sued again. This time they’re accused of allegedly beating a deaf Colorado man who could not understand their commands.
Plaintiff Brady Mistic claims in a federal lawsuit that he was attacked when Idaho Springs Police officers Nicholas Hanning and Ellie Summers followed him into a laundromat because he allegedly ran a stop sign on Sept. 17, 2019. Summers is still on the force; Hanning was fired in 2021 over a separate incident.
“Just after he parked his car and began walking in, the Defendant officers pulled up nearby and shone a light in his eyes,” the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado alleges. “Confused, blinded by police lights, and unable to hear or know what was going on, Mr. Mistic stopped walking, attempted to communicate with his hands, and then put his hands up in a non-threatening manner. Without providing any warning, commands, or reasonable opportunity for communication, the Defendant Officers quickly grabbed Mr. Mistic, slammed him to the ground, and repeatedly tasered him despite him saying ‘no ears’ to communicate he was deaf.”
Mistic cannot read lips, according to the lawsuit. He said he tried to use his hands—though not sign language—to communicate with Hanning and Summers.
“Mistic commonly communicates that he is deaf and that he needs to write to communicate by raising his hands, touching or covering his ears, and shaking his head ‘no’ and then mimicking the act of writing on a piece of paper,” the lawsuit says. “He has used this pantomimic language to communicate to police officers that he is deaf and needs to write to communicate during several ordinary traffic stops on occasions prior to this one. The officers who have encountered him during these stops have not had any difficulty understanding that he was disabled and have provided appropriate accommodations to him in the past.”
The lawsuit alleges that Hanning made a perfunctory claim that Mistic was acting in a threatening manner and used that claim as a pretext to throw him to the ground.
“As Defendants rapidly got out of their vehicle and approached Mr. Mistic, he raised his hands up with palms out in an obvious non-threatening position of deference and/or surrender,” the lawsuit goes on. “Defendant Hanning rapidly raced ran over toward Mr. Mistic, yelling ‘you’re gonna come up on us like that.’… Hanning grabbed Mr. Mistic’s sweatshirt and threw him to the ground, bashing Mr. Mistic’s head into the concrete.”
A scuffle ensued during which Mistic repeatedly shouted “No ears! no ears!” as he was tased twice by Summers, the lawsuit says.
This isn’t the first time that Hanning and Summers have been accused of excessive force.
As Law&Crime previously reported in July, 75-year-old Michael Clark sued Hanning and Summers after he was tased inside his apartment on May 30, 2021. In that lawsuit, Clark — who also sustained a black eye due to the incident – claims that “Defendants stripped him of his independence, his security, and his health.”
“He feels deeply sad, betrayed by those who were supposed to protect him,” the lawsuit said. “Even if he survives the heart surgery he still now requires, he will never be whole again.”
In the aftermath of the civil allegations against the two officers and their commanding officer, Hanning was charged by prosecutors with third-degree felony assault of an at-risk adult, a class 6 felony that could result in a maximum sentence of two years in prison. The officer was ultimately fired after being charged.
In response to the latest claims against Hanning and Summers, the Idaho Springs Police Department posted a rebuttal on its website which disputes the facts as alleged by Mistic and claims that he “immediately got out of his vehicle and quickly approached a clearly marked patrol car with the emergency lights activated.” Mistic, on the other hand, says he was walking toward the laundromat and that the officers were parked nearly 50 feet away from him when they initiated their lights and caused him to stop in his tracks.
“The officers gave verbal commands for Mr. Mistic to get back in his vehicle,” the ISPD says. “It was later determined Mr. Mistic was deaf, but this fact was not known to the officers during the initial encounter. Officers then directed Mr. Mistic to sit down. At one point officers attempted to gain control of Mr. Mistic by placing him into handcuffs due to his unexplained actions. Mr. Mistic resisted the officers, and a physical altercation took place. One of the ISPD officers was injured (broken leg) due to the resistive actions of Mr. Mistic.”
The lawsuit references the officer’s broken leg and argues the context in which Mistic was charged [emphasis in original]:
When one of the officers hurt himself in the course of the attack, the Defendant officers falsely charged the deaf man with assault on a police officer in an illusory attempt to cover up their misconduct – which caused the man to unjustifiably spend months in jail without appropriate accommodations to help him communicate that he was, in fact, the victim.
Mistic spent four months in jail before charges of resisting arrest, assault on a first responder, and obstructing a police officer were dropped. During the time he spent in jail, Mistic was not provided an interpreter, the lawsuit says.
Mistic is suing the officers along with the city of Idaho Springs and the Clear Creek County Board of Commissioners for monetary damages due to alleged “physical and emotional harm, pain and suffering, permanent scarring, and economic damages” resulting from the altercation.
Mistic’s full lawsuit is available below:
[image via screengrab/Idaho Springs Police Department]
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