The family members of Justin Perkins, who died last year while in police custody, have filed a lawsuit against the Anaheim police officers they allege choked and beat him and didn’t get him medical care.
On Oct. 27, police officers Shao Wang and Kenny Lee went to Perkins’ apartment complex to respond to reports of an assault on an employee at the complex.
John Burris, an attorney for the family, said that Perkins suffers from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and may have gotten into a disagreement with an employee at the building and hit him. He said that the officers’ failure to recognize his mental state escalated the conflict.
“During their attempted arrest, the defendant officers repeatedly struck Perkins about his head, face, and body with closed fists,” the lawsuit said. “Justin’s uncle, Mike Perkins, stood within feet of the struggle and shouted to the defendant officers, ‘He’s not trying to hurt you! He’s just scared; he has a mental disorder!’ ”
Perkins collapsed after the incident and the officers allegedly didn’t get him medical care for almost 45 minutes. His body and organs got damaged from a lack of oxygen, causing his death on Oct. 31.
According to authorities, the two police officers were seriously injured by Perkins. Sgt. Daron Wyatt, an Anaheim police spokesman, didn’t elaborate on the injuries the officers endured, citing confidentiality laws governing the release of medical records.
Burris said that Perkins’ death represented a larger issue in law enforcement, as police frequently have difficulty calming interactions with mentally ill individuals.
“Our thoughts go out to any family that has lost a loved one. Our officers responded to a call for help for someone being assaulted and acted in their duty as peace officers,” Mike Lyster, a city spokesman, said in a statement. “They sustained serious injuries and have yet to be cleared to return to work. Beyond that, we want to respect all involved by letting reviews of the incident and any legal process play out.”