SACRAMENTO -- The family of a man with brain damage has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Sacramento Police Department, accusing officers of using excessive force.
"They were terrible. They were just awful to him. All they had to do was hand-cuff him. He didn't even do anything wrong. He was sitting on a curb," Debbie Hernandez said about her son John and his March 6 encounter with police.
He ran into a Midtown medical center -- his mother said he was trying to find help -- when police caught up with him.
Hernandez has a history of drug abuse and the criminal charges that come with it, but no violent crime on his record. Officers responded after employees of a nearby store reported he was behaving strangely.
"He ran into the medical facility for help. They pulled a gun on him and he got scared, you know? He wasn't threatening anybody," his mother said.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Hernandez cites repeated Taser and baton strikes. The scars from those are, his mother says, are still evident on his body today. The lawsuit also alleges four officers smothered Hernandez on the ground, depriving him of oxygen for 10 minutes.
Now, Hernandez has trouble speaking and just recently learned how to walk again.
The lawsuit goes on to say the Sacramento Police Department's conduct during the incident and after shows evidence of "entrenched culture and posture of deliberate indifference toward protecting citizen’s rights.”
The City of Sacramento declined to comment.
"He'll never be John again, ever," Debbie Hernandez said.
The force used on Hernandez has left him dependent on daily medications and therapy, dependent on his mother for care, and his family is now asking a jury to decide whether that force was justified.
Hernandez himself says he sometimes wishes police used more force.
"He says he wishes they would have just killed him," his mother said.
"They didn't, though," Hernandez added. "They didn't."