Instead of providing medical help when he suffered an epileptic seizure, a Bristol Township man alleges in recently filed court documents that he was assaulted by police officers and emergency medical technicians and charged with simple and aggravated assault and resisting arrest.
David Niedrist, 44, was later acquitted of the criminal charges stemming from the April 2, 2017, incident outside his home. A nine-minute cellphone video captured by a neighbor and played in court last year showed an unidentified police officer striking Niedrist, who was on the ground and moaning, with a police-issued baton several times, according to defense attorney Richard Fink, who represented Niedrist. This news organization also reviewed the video.
In the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, Niedrist contends his civil rights were violated when police officers and rescue squad employees who responded to his Indian Creek Way home used "unreasonable and unnecessary" force against him without provocation that put him at an increased danger of harm.
Defendants named in the suit include Bristol Township, Bristol and Falls police departments and officers on those forces, and the Levittown-Fairless Hills Rescue Squad and several of its employees. This news organization was unsuccessful in reaching officials representing the defendants for comment through emails sent on Wednesday. No defendant attorneys were listed in the lawsuit paperwork.
Philadelphia attorney Alan Yatvin, who is representing Niedrist in the civil suit, also did not respond to a phone message left Wednesday.
Niedrist was in the driver's seat of his car parked outside his home when he began to experience a "tonic-clonic seizure," according to the lawsuit. His nephew, who was with him, called 911 and reported that Niedrist was experiencing a seizure. Police and EMT were dispatched to the home, and the dispatcher told both that Niedrist was suffering a seizure, the suit said.
Bristol Township police alleged Niedrist was "unconscious but breathing" when the first officer arrived at the scene and EMS were attempting to wake him, according to a copy of the probable cause affidavit in the criminal case. As Niedrist regained consciousness he became "combative" with EMTs and "noncompliant" with their orders. At one point, police alleged, Niedrist kicked the driver's side door and swung his arms at EMTs "in an apparent attempt to strike them," according the court document.
The officer then grabbed Niedrist and removed him from the car, and took him to the ground to arrest him for the assault and harassment of EMTs, the affidavit said. The officer also stated he used physical force including hand and knee strikes, baton strikes and a stun gun to get Niedrist to comply, but he calmed down only when injected with a drug described as a preoperative sedative, according to the affidavit. The video confirms the action described in the affidavit.
In his lawsuit, though, Niedrist claims he was in a "semi-conscious" "post-ictal state" as a result of a "seizure disorder/epilepsy" when police and EMTs arrived and he was unable to respond, comprehend or comply with directions. He alleged that his "medical condition" was treated as "conscious disobedience" by first responders, according to the lawsuit.
"Although the plaintiff was not a threat to any officer, EMT or any other person or himself, the individual defendants used physical force against him including repeatedly punched, kicked, struck with a baton and deployed a Taser," according to the suit.
Niedrist was hospitalized four days with multiple injuries to his ribs, kidneys, back, face and head, according to the suit. When he woke in the hospital he was handcuffed and under police guard. He claims he spent $40,000 in legal fees to fight the charges against him.
The federal suit also alleges that Bristol and Falls police officers do not use "widely recognized and well-established crisis intervention procedures and techniques with regard to individuals exhibiting seizures and after effects, and to resort to unreasonable and excessive force."