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Lawsuit questions use of hogtying by law enforcement

January 22, 2012 | 10:38 am

Drivers passing through Vernon were confronted by an unusual sight on the afternoon of Dec. 29, 2008: a naked man, running down Grande Vista Avenue in the middle of traffic, babbling and punching cars. Soon after, the man was comatose after a confrontation with Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies and Vernon police.

Three years later, Parrish Batchan remains at a rehabilitation center in Van Nuys in what his family's lawyers call a "minimally conscious" state, unable to speak or move.

The family and the two law enforcement agencies are preparing to debate in court whether Batchan's near-death was caused by a controversial restraint practice known as total appendage restraint procedure, or hogtying.

There has been much controversy in law enforcement about hogtying, and it has been the subject of several lawsuits. The Los Angeles Police Department banned the procedure altogether after a lawsuit in the late 1990s, although it still allows hobbling of suspects' feet.

Batchan was a ticket scalper from Arizona with a history of schizophrenia; he had disappeared from his home in Phoenix and ended up in the industrial outskirts of Los Angeles.

Deputies and officers on the scene said Batchan jumped on a van and broke the windshield with his fist, ignored their orders, and advanced on deputies, throwing punches in the air. Officers and deputies used a stun gun on Batchan multiple times, including once after he was on the ground. Deputies then handcuffed him and hobbled his legs.

When Batchan continued to struggle, they clipped his hobbled legs to his cuffed hands behind him.

While he was restrained, Batchan stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics revived his heart, but he never fully recovered consciousness.

Attorneys for Barbara Batchan argue that her son stopped breathing because of a phenomenon known as positional asphyxia. They claim that Batchan should not have been hogtied after he had been shot with a stun gun and that officers and deputies left him on his stomach and failed to monitor his breathing. Such actions would violate department policy.

Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore declined to discuss specifics of the case but said the department is confident of prevailing at trial.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. Nobody wants to see this happen," he said, but he added: "We look forward to telling our story [in court]."


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-- Abby Sewell