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Three Waynesboro police officers face a federal lawsuit after a mix-up that landed a man with a debilitating disease in a mental hospital. Gordon Goines of Waynesboro is also suing a clinician who allegedly misdiagnosed him. It's a case his attorney, John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, says exposes a dangerous trend.
Goines suffers from cerebellar ataxia, which is similar to ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. He called the police because he thought someone was stealing his cable and from there he found himself handcuffed and in isolation.
“In effect, this man was punished for having a disease.” Whitehead stated.
According to the 16-page lawsuit filed in federal court earlier this month, on May 15, 2014 Goines' TV was disconnecting and freezing throughout the day. He called Comcast who, after investigating the issue, suggested he call the police.
Goines lives right across from the Waynesboro Police Department. Even though his condition makes it difficult to move at times, he walked from his building to the police department, hoping they could help him out. Goines says the officers walked him back to his house and that's when he suddenly found himself in handcuffs.
“At the time of the seizure, transportation and detention of Goines, none of the defendants had probable cause to believe that Goines had committed any crime, nor did any defendant have probable cause to believe that Goines was a danger to himself or others, nor did any defendant have any other legitimate lawful basis to seize, arrest or detain him,” the complaint states.
In custody, Goines told officials about his cerebellar ataxia, which a worker called “shrunken cerebellum,” and provided the name of his physician, who never was contacted.
He also was accused of appearing “disoriented as to time” by workers who had confiscated his watch and cell phone.
Ataxia: Poor coordination and unsteadiness due to the brain's failure to regulate the body's posture and regulate the strength and direction of limb movements. Ataxia is usually due to disease in the cerebellum of the brain, which lies beneath the back part of the cerebrum.