When a police officer in Yuba City, California, applied his body weight to the neck and back of a 65-year-old man during an arrest, he repeatedly told the cops he couldn’t feel his legs. The officers didn’t listen, and the man ended up paralyzed, according to a lawsuit he recently filed.
“Get me up, please, I can’t feel my legs,” Army veteran Gregory Gross tells the officers in police bodycam footage shared with VICE News through his attorney. “Dear God, I can’t feel my legs.”
Gross’ lawyer Moseley Collins confirmed Gross had been involved in a hit-and-run while driving under the influence one day in April 2020. After he let three Yuba City police officers into his son-in-law’s home, Gross was wrestled to the ground two separate times while he was handcuffed, without warning, and laid on by one of the officers, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday, and police body camera footage. He suffered a broken nose as well as a broken vertebra and torn ligaments in his neck, causing spinal cord damage, paralysis, and profuse bleeding, according to the lawsuit. He required two spinal cord surgeries as a result of his injuries.
Gross has been bedridden in his home since the encounter. He can no longer walk, has lost all use of his hands, and requires 24/7 in-home nursing care. He says he has trouble eating and can’t care for his disabled fianceè, who’s bound to a scooter.
“I couldn’t have imagined ever being laid up like this,” he said in a video press conference announcing the lawsuit. “Every day I’ll wake up and I know that I’m stuck in bed. The whole thing has taken a toll on me mentally. It’s a challenge to stay positive.”
The lawsuit names the three officers present at the time of the arrest—the one who put his body weight on top of Gross, as well as two others, who failed to intervene—and accuses them of excessive use of force, battery, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Gross is asking to be compensated for medical expenses, both past and ongoing.
According to the lawsuit, Gross hit another vehicle near an elementary school and his son-in-law’s apartment complex on April 12, 2020. Collins said Gross was going at a speed of one mile an hour as he backed out of a parking space and that he was drunk at the time of the accident.
Hearing a disturbance across the street while responding to the crime, the officers knocked on his son-in-law’s door, were allowed in, and found Gross sitting inside. The officers placed him under arrest and prepared to walk him to a patrol vehicle.
In body camera video of the arrest outside, police force Gross to sit on the ground with a wrist lock, a hold meant to induce pain to get a suspect to comply, without warning. Gross screams out in pain and the officers continue the hold and tell him he’s under arrest for a hit and run. The officers first took Gross to jail but were advised that he needed to be medically cleared at the hospital.
Later on in front of the hospital, one of the officers is seen on bodycam video handing a handcuffed Gross to another officer. At this time, the elderly man can be heard complaining about being slammed against a cop car and asks the officer if he has anger issues. The alleged takedown that happens at this point can’t be seen on body camera footage, but when the officer turns back, Gross is facedown on the ground.
According to the lawsuit, Gross was pushed three to five feet from where he was standing to where he’s seen lying on the ground seconds later, according to the lawsuit. The officer who pushed him then uses his arms and body weight to pin Gross’ neck and torso to the ground, according to the lawsuit.
“I can’t breathe,” Gross is heard saying as the officer on top of him yanks at his arm.
“If you’re talking, you’re breathing,” an officer responds.
The officers struggle to get the Army vet to his feet as he cries out in agony.
As Gross tells the officers that he can’t feel his legs, the cops refute Gross’ claim before getting him up on a wheelchair and telling him they’re done with his “silly little games.” A bloodied Gross apologizes before being wheeled into the hospital, where medical professionals start to treat him. At that point, as Gross continues to say he can’t feel his legs, an officer tells him, "I only slammed you on the ground one time, sir, and it was very controlled."
The lawsuit states that Gross was in the hospital for nearly six hours before he was finally seen by a doctor and diagnosed with quadriplegia.
“This is a case of police brutality,” Collins told VICE News. “We are not against the police in general. We need them. But we are against brutality, which in this case destroyed this man’s life.”
Gross faces trial in March related to the alleged hit and run. He’s been charged with driving while under the influence, hit and run, and resisting arrest.
The Yuba City Police Department did not provide a statement regarding the lawsuit when reached for comment. They did tell Newsweek that at least one of the officers named in Gross’ lawsuit has not been with the department since February 2021.
This is Gross’ second lawsuit related to the April 2020 incident, according to the Sacremento Bee. Last August, the 65-year-old filed a lawsuit against the hospital that treated him, Rideout Memorial Hospital, the University of California Davis Medical Center, and individual healthcare workers for medical malpractice.
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