UPDATED: A federal jury awarded nearly $218,000 to former “Mr. Universe,” Douglas Burns, who was beaten by Redwood City police when they mistook his diabetic shock for drunkenness at a movie theater.
Jurors found officer Jaime Mateo used excessive force in violation of Burns constitutional rights and found Mateo and a second officer, David Gough, were negligent. The total jury award of $218,000
was reduced (Burns’ lawyer comments below) will remain although jurors held Burns had a 30 percent share in the blame in the 2007 incident.
Burns went into life-threatening insulin shock at the movie house in April 2007 but was mistaken for drunk and escorted out of the theater by a security guard. He was taken away from the snack counter where he could have stabilized his blood sugar with candy, according to the lawsuit.
Outside the theater, police responded to a call from the guard but rather than check Burns condition, the officers blocked his repeated attempts to return to the snack bar and ultimately pepper-sprayed his face, according to the lawsuit.
Burns alleged he was struck in the ribs several times with a police baton and his head forced into the concrete. Burns said that despite his dazed condition from diabetic shock, he told officer Gough he was diabetic but was thrown to the ground, the suit states. Burns also wore a visible MedicAlert bracelet indicating he had diabetes.
Once paramedics arrived they recognized the diabetic shock and after performing a blood sugar test found his level so low as to pose a serious risk of brain damage or death, according to court papers. He was given glucose hospitalized and recovered, according to the suit.
Burns was winner of the “Mr. Universe” contest in 2006 and has Type 1 Diabetes. His lawsuit alleged the officers violated their own training and assumed he was drunk, rather than hypoglycemic.
Case: Burns v. Redwood City, C08-2995RS (N. Dist. of Calif.)