A blind veteran and Mississippi native is suing New York Police Department officers after he says they failed to identify themselves as police during an unwarranted arrest in 2014.
Claude Ruffin, 62, says officers came into his room at a Long Island City shelter on New Year’s Eve, grabbed him, and walked him outside. When the veteran pulled his arm away from one of the cops, a struggle ensued. It wasn’t until Ruffin felt one of the cop’s guns that he realized he was dealing with law enforcement.
According to the New York Daily News exclusive report, police had been called to the shelter by security who claimed Ruffin kicked a door. Staff at the shelter later admitted he only bumped into the door because he did not have a cane.
“I’m not expecting for police to come,” he told the Daily News. “Two people grab my arms. But I was cool. I walked outside with them, but then they began to manhandle me!”
As the former plumber wrestled on the ground with his captors, he still didn’t know they were cops — until he made a startling discovery.
“I went to get up and I put my hand on one of their guns,” Ruffin said. “I said, ‘Oh, this is the f—ing police!’”
Several people came to Ruffin’s aid, including two shelter residents identified as Shabazz Ali and Henry Davis. Davis was pepper-sprayed and both individuals were arrested for interfering with the arrest.
“We kept yelling, ‘You’re dealing with a blind man! You’re dealing with a blind man!’” Ali recalled.
“No one said ‘I’m the police,’” Ali said. “This was right after that (Akai Gurley) shooting in the hallway. A few months earlier (Garner) was choked to death over cigarettes. With all of that in the news you would think they would give people some kind of courtesy, particularly a blind man.”
The charges against Ruffin, which included resisting arrest and assaulting an officer, were eventually dropped. But the charges still prevented the veteran from securing permanent housing, attorney David Thompson said. Because officers failed to identify themselves, Ruffin, Ali and Davis have filed the suit claiming their civil rights were violated.
“If a uniformed police officer walks up to me, I know I am dealing with a police officer instantly — because I can see him or her,” Thompson said. “For someone like Mr. Ruffin, he is not going to know that he is dealing with police unless they verbally say so.”
“(Police) have to identify themselves and they have to do it in a way a blind person can trust,” Thompson said. “Saying that they’re a cop is step one, but it doesn’t necessarily do enough. This was not an emergency situation where they couldn’t take off their badge, hand it to him and say, ‘Feel this.’”
The Department has yet to respond to the lawsuit or the claim the city “has failed to provide any written guidelines to police officers for proper interactions with blind people,” the Daily News reports. A police source, however, did tell the Daily News that a female cop was seriously injured in the incident, adding that Ruffin was intoxicated and “throwing police officers around.”
An investigation is ongoing.
SOURCE: Daily News | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty