Arizona Veteran to Sue Gilbert Police for Using Excessive Force During PTSD Meltdown

A veteran plans to sue the Gilbert Police Department after, lawyers say, officers Tased him until his heart stopped while in the midst of a psychotic episode caused by post-traumatic stress disorder.

Kyle Cardenas’s mother, recognizing that her son was exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, called a crisis hotline operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on September 12 after he accused his family of attempting to poison him and refused to eat anything unless the dog tasted it, according to a notice of claim. She requested a mental-health crisis team from the VA, but Gilbert Police were dispatched instead.

Cardenas’s attorney, Scott Zwillinger, alleges officers barged into the veteran’s home without permission after he shut the door in their face. When he threatened to fetch his cell phone to record the encounter, the police chased him down the hallway, kicked in his door, and told Cardenas they were going to detain him for attempting to have the family dog attack them.

One officer told Cardenas, who was sitting in a chair, to put down his cell phone, according to court documents. But, before he could comply, another officer allegedly fired his Taser.

As Cardenas fought with police, he became more and more delusional, repeatedly demanding to speak with Child Protective Services, Zwillinger contends.

“At this point, at least seven police officers had entered the home,” he writes. “During the melee, the officers Tased Kyle at least seven times, sprayed OC spray directly into Kyle’s face, struck Kyle multiple times with their batons, punched Kyle in the face with closed fists, kicked and kneed Kyle in the things and legs, and ordered one of the K-9 unit dogs to attack and bite Kyle.”

After Cardenas complained of chest pain, officials took him to Gateway Banner Hospital, where he was restrained and given a dose of Haldol, an anti-psychotic drug commonly used to sedate agitated patients.

When a hospital security guard attempted to tighten Cardenas' restraints, the veteran grabbed at him, according to the notice of claim. Several officers rushed to help and allegedly Tased Cardenas a number of times. At that point, Zwillinger writes, “it was discovered that Kyle was no longer breathing, did not have a pulse, and was turning blue.”

Cardenas was revived and put into a medically induced coma for four days.

Cardenas, charging assault and battery, excessive force, false arrest, and negligent hiring, training, and supervision, is seeking $20 million to settle the case.

If the police department declines to settle, Zwillinger says Cardenas is “prepared to proceed with litigation to recover not only his damages, but to raise awareness of what is occurring on a daily basis throughout the United States relating to the rising numbers of veterans being shot and killed by the police” and “the complete and utter lack of mental health assistance that is provided by Veterans Affairs directly and through their crisis hotlines.”

Cardenas, a two-tour combat veteran in the United States Army, 82nd Airborne Division, was honorably discharged in 2006. His PTSD, Zwillinger says, stems directly from his deployments to Mosul, Iraq. 

The Gilbert Police Department did not respond to requests for comment. 
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Elizabeth Stuart
Contact: Elizabeth Stuart