Woman Sues Augusta County Deputies Over Wrongful Death of Husband
The wife of a Waynesboro man who died shortly after being arrested filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the August County Sheriff’s Office, accusing the officers of excessive force and gross negligence.
The incident occured on Sept. 2, 2016 when Donnie L. Roberston took eight pills of a depression medication, which is enough to cause an overdose. His wife called 911 and police arrived to their home shortly after. Cpl. C.J. Dietz met the wife outside on the porch, where she told him that her husband needed medical help. He told her to bring her husband outside. The wife urged that Roberston didn’t commit any crime.
According to the lawsuit, Dietz acted aggressively toward Roberston from the get go and even shouted at him as he walked away from him. When Roberston started walking toward him, he drew his nightstick and ordered for him to keep his distance.
Before Dietz could restrain Roberston, two more deputies, Andrew Heizer and Jonathan Wells, came to the scene. Roberston then tripped on a tree root and fell. As he tried to get up, Dietz reportedly put his knee on his back and forced him back down to the ground. The officer then kneeled on his neck, which was suffocating him.
Once Roberston stopped moving, he was handcuffed. When the officers rolled him over, he had blue lips and wasn’t breathing.
“By the time the rescue squad arrived, Mr. Robertson had suffered severe, life threatening injuries at the hands of Defendant Dietz,” the lawsuit said.
When he was rushed to the hospital, Roberston went into cardiac arrest. He died three days later. The medical examiner listed the cause of death as “cardiac arrhythmia due to uncertain etiology during physical restraint by law enforcement.”
When Roberston died, Augusta County Sheriff Donald Smith send out a press release that said Roberston became aggressive and didn’t listen to the officer’s commands, which led to the arrest.
Roberston’s wife is seeking more than $5 million in damages in the lawsuit.
This certainly isn’t the first time police have been accused of using excessive force when arresting someone. Earlier this month, Joshua Douglas filed a lawsuit against the City of Muncie and four police officers for using “unreasonable, discriminatory, and excessive force” during his arrest.
According to police, Douglas threw a bag containing 65 grams of crystal meth as he attempted to run away from them. When they caught up to him in a Taco Bell parking lot, Douglas reportedly resisted arrest and refused to show his hands.
Once Douglas was in custody, the police allegedly slammed him onto the blacktop and even punched him. Douglas said he suffered physical injuries and emotional distress from the incident and is seeking “whatever amount a judge and jury may find reasonable.”
If you feel you are entitled to a wrongful death lawsuit, do not hesitate to reach out to Cohen & Cohen, P.C. and we will make sure to fight for your fair compensation.