When a Bucks County man suffered a seizure at his home in Levittown and his family called 911, responding officers from two local police departments struck him repeatedly, using a Taser and metal baton, in a show of force that was “unreasonable and unnecessary,” he says in a federal lawsuit filed last month.
David Niedrist sued the Bristol Township and Falls Township Police Departments as well as the Levittown-Fairless Hills Rescue Squad. In the suit, Niedrist, 44, says his disorientation from the aftereffects of a tonic-clonic seizure — known to cause loss of consciousness and muscle spasms — prevented him from following the commands of the officers and medics who responded in April 2017.
“He was an innocent guy in need of medical care, his family called 911, and he ended up having a Taser used on him several times, was struck with a baton, and kicked in the head after he was handcuffed," Niedrist’s attorney, Alan L. Yatvin, said Monday. "Not to mention he was charged with crimes that could’ve sent him to jail for a significant amount of time.”
Officials in the three organizations did not return requests for comment Monday.
Niedrist was charged with felony aggravated assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and related offenses after the chaotic incident in front of his home. The suit characterizes those charges as a retaliatory attempt to cover up wrongdoing by officers at the scene. A jury acquitted him of all charges, court records show.
A cell phone video from the arrest shows at least three officers hitting Niedrist while he lies prone, shouting at him to put his hands behind his back. Niedrist screams in pain as one officer strikes him in the back with a metal baton and another stuns him twice with a Taser.
At one point, an unidentified EMT speaks with Niedrist’s father, telling him to calm down.
“We treat everyone like we treat our own family,” a medic says in the video. “It looks like we’re beating the [expletive] out of him, but we have to put our safety first.”
Niedrist was hospitalized for four days after his arrest, with injuries to his ribs, kidneys, back, face, and head, according to the lawsuit.
Bristol Township Police Officer Jason Reilly, one of 23 individuals also named as defendants in the suit, wrote in an affidavit of probable cause for Niedrist’s arrest that Niedrist was sitting unconscious in the driver’s seat of a Hyundai sedan parked in his home’s driveway when officers arrived.
As Niedrist began to regain consciousness, “he became combative with the EMTs,” refusing to stay in the vehicle, according to the affidavit. He then pushed the EMTs and kicked the door of the vehicle, swinging his arms “in an apparent attempt to strike them.”
At that point, Reilly said, he attempted to arrest Niedrist, beginning the seven-minute melee that was captured in the cell phone footage.
In the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, Yatvin writes that dispatchers and first responders were told Niedrist was suffering from a seizure, but “disregarded the evidence of his medical condition.” He said the departments failed in training their officers in the proper way to deal with people suffering from seizures.
Since Niedrist’s acquittal, he has noticed police cars closely tailing him, and frequently spots them driving past his house, according to the suit.