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Family: Durham deputy beat up man with Alzheimer's

Posted June 23, 2010

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— A Durham family claims a deputy used unnecessary force against an elderly man with Alzheimer's on Tuesday, but the Durham County Sheriff's Office maintains that the deputy had no way of knowing the man suffered from the debilitating illness.

Justo Santander, 78, wandered away from home Tuesday evening. He later showed up outside a home more than 12 miles away, startling the homeowner, who called 911.

"There's a man outside my house. He's a Mexican man. I don't know who he is. I don't know how he got back here. He won't leave," the woman told the 911 dispatcher.

Sheriff's Capt. Donald Ladd said the man mumbled and seemed confused when the deputy questioned him. The deputy, whose name wasn't released, also couldn't see what was in Santander's hand, Ladd said.

"The item that this individual had in his hand was a tube, OK, which also has the resemblance of a handgun," he said.

After asking the man to drop the item, the deputy tried to handcuff him, and a struggle ensued, Ladd said.

"The individual ended up on the ground first with the officer on top of him," he said.

Santander's family says he speaks limited English. They also said he was wearing medical tags, but Ladd said they were tucked inside his shirt and the deputy couldn't see them.

Durham County Sheriff's Office patrol cars Authorities: Deputy didn't know man had Alzheimer's

It wasn't until later the deputy realized the man had Alzheimer's, Ladd said. Santander was the subject of a Silver Alert last year under a different last name, authorities said.

"Our heart goes out to this family. Our heart goes out to this individual," Ladd said.

Santander was listed in good condition Wednesday at Duke University Hospital after suffering a black eye, a cut on his face and bruised shoulders, neck and ribs.

The family acknowledged that they didn't report Santander missing. Ladd said such notification could have alerted the deputy to his identity.

Still, family members said they plan to consult with attorneys about the incident.

"For a person his age, suffering from Alzheimer's, it was ridiculous the beating he got," said his granddaughter, Adela Gomez. "It's too much. It's just too much."


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  • ForTheLoveOf Jun 25, 2010

    Promethian, ever seen a guy who's bleeding still resist arrest/being searched? I have. Ever seen a 60+ some year old man, with a heart condition, AND using an inhaler have to be forcibly restrained by SEVERAL officers to do what was needed? I have. He even swung at the medical staff, and kicked at us.

    Guess what, just because there are averages and standards doesn't mean that EVERYONE falls within those ranges. This man could have been an extremely fit for his age.

    Don't get me wrong, I am VERY pro-LE and not just b/c I work in the field, but I also believe in individual rights. I also know myself and most of the others I work with. 99% of us value or jobs enough not to do something as stupid as beat up on a 70+ yr old person just for the hell of it. We do our jobs, and in the process of having to restrain someone who refuses to cooperate, people can get hurt.

  • ForTheLoveOf Jun 25, 2010

    If you haven't
    1) Ever wrestled a full grown adult, no matter the age, you shouldn't comment.
    2) Ever been involved in a physical altercation, you shouldn't comment.

    For those of you don't look in LE, imagine this:

    Late at night, you get a call about a suspicious person. You don't have backup immediately on hand (usually), and you the person you run into is elderly, with an unknown object in his hand. The person doesn't understand english and doesn't comply with your instructions. What do you do?

    Ever tried to put a the hands of a person who doesn't want to do it, behind their back so you can cuff them? Not an easy task, even if they ARE small/frail/weak seeming. You people also don't know if this man hurt himself with the apparent head injuries PRIOR to the incident, or during the scuffle. THey might not be "deputy inflicted". I'd like to say something here but the mods wouldn't allow it. Be safe.

  • promethianfire Jun 25, 2010

    The 911 caller told dispact "He's a Mexican man", so the deputy should have known there might be a language barrier. Saying it is the 78 y-o's fault for not speaking English dosen't cut-it. He could be here for med treatment, or be a resident alien. If Durham County had proper leadership, then we would not have issues like this.

  • back2basics Jun 25, 2010

    "Santander's family says he speaks limited English." You need to speak fluent english to be a citizen- if you are not a citizen you should not live here- then we would not have issue's like this.

  • promethianfire Jun 25, 2010

    After walking 12 miles in the heat, how much of his 78 y-o, dementia fueled superhuman strenght remained? It was in the evening, but nowhere does the story say it was dark. Was he a victim of circumstance? Most certainly. Was he the victim of LEO abuse? "Black eye, a cut on his face and bruised shoulders, neck and ribs", if he had these injuries when the deputy arrived it would have been obvious he needed help. It stands to reason that wanting help was the reason the old man was at the woman's house.
    Only two things are certain, 1. if the deputy un-necessarily beat the oldman up, it is his word against someone who will not be able to defend himself (again) 2. I'm very glad it wasn't one of my family members.
    LEO's serve us and often times do good, but (if and) when they abuse their power they should be made to answer for it like any civilian would answer for an assult.

  • smokiejoe Jun 25, 2010

    paulej..think about what I said.I'm not saying put your hands in the everytime you don't hear clearly.However,if you are dealing with LEO&they feel you might be a threat what is the commands they give you.Hands in the air&on top of your head or face down on the ground hands&feet spread apart.Like I said use common sense if you have any.It can save alot of pain.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jun 25, 2010

    didisaythat, what are you talking about? I almost always support the police...they've got a tough job and there are a LOT of belligerent crazies out there. He's lucky the cop didn't shoot him.

  • Big Tom Jun 25, 2010

    And the City of Durham is worrying about what's going on in Arizona. Arizona should be worrying about what's going on in Durham. Somebody needs to flush the toilet in Durham.

  • Alexia.1 Jun 25, 2010

    richardcarter, if I can't hear what somebody is saying, I'm not just going to stand there and put my hands in my head. That's nonsense. Perhaps the police have a different opinion, but I don't think "common sense" is for a person to throw their hands into the air every time they can't hear clearly.

    Common sense ought to be a recognition that not all people are able to respond properly to commands for a variety of reasons. Common sense should not be actions that result in what I see here.

  • Whatever Geez Jun 25, 2010

    hes old....he probably bruises and bleeds easily; so it may look worse than what it really is.