El Paso, TX – A man who was beaten by police while he was having a seizure is now facing charges from the incident. Javier Ortega Jr. was driving home one night when he had a seizure behind the wheel and crashed his vehicle.
Ortega stopped at a gas station just before the crash but doesn’t remember anything after that.
“I stopped at the Circle K just up the street. I don’t remember what I put. To this day, I don’t remember what I put. I had to check my bank account,” Ortega said.
When police arrived on the scene, they assumed that Ortega was drunk and became immediately aggressive with him.
In the police report, the officer said Ortega was “looking around aimlessly and appeared disoriented.”
Ortega was confused and began telling the officers that he needed to leave, at which point they began to get more aggressive with him, assaulting him, and using both their batons and tasers on him.
“His complete body was bruised. His arms, his legs, his feet, his back. And he had the two Taser shots on his stomach, his head, his broken fingers,” Ortega’s mom, Olaya Calanche said.
Dr. Darine Kassar, a neurologist at Texas Tech University Health Science Center, explained that Ortega was in a “postictal phase” of his seizure when he was met by police.
“They will not know what happened, they will be confused, they will be disoriented. What happened they can be combative they can be not following commands because they are confused, they are not back to their normal baseline,” Kassar explained.
“Don’t try to restrain them or be aggressive with them because they are still not back to their normal selves,” she added.
Ortega said that if he is told that he just has a seizure, he is able to bring himself back to reality quickly.
Paramedics said that Ortega was able to “voice his seizure history but remained confused, alert to name only.” However, the police seemed to ignore his medical condition.
“People around me typically know, he just had a seizure, he just had a seizure. So the cops didn’t know and in turn, I got beat up. I got beat up pretty bad,” said Ortega
To add insult to injury, Ortega was charged with DWI resisting arrest, evading arrest and interfering with public duties. After a toxicology screening had revealed that there were, in fact, no drugs or alcohol in his system, the DWI charge was dropped, but the other charges remain.
“I know I didn’t do anything wrong, you know. I’m not that type of person. I’ll get pulled over and talk very courteously to any cop. I have cop friends. That really upset me because how, why do I have a felony citation and two misdemeanor citations and then I find out they’re trying to give me a DWI,” Ortega said.
Ortega’s case highlights the fact that police unnecessarily escalate situations by assuming that every person they encounter is a criminal.
“I hope that they know that this stuff happens to people. It’s not, not everybody’s bad. Not everybody’s out there trying to get drunk and partying, acting like a fool. Some people are actually sick,” said Ortega.
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