Waynesboro Man Files Lawsuit After Mix-Up Lands him in Mental Hospital
WAYNESBORO, Va. (WVIR) - 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.
Cerebellar ataxia makes it difficult, at times, to talk. “People who have what's called cerebellar ataxia are going to look like they're drunk. They're going to be unsteady, they're going to have slurred speech,” said Dr. Lawrence Phillips of the University of Virginia Medical Center.
But when officers encountered Goines, they had a different theory. “The policeman noticed he had slurred speech and asked if he had mental problems,” Whitehead explained. “He said no, they said ‘do you want to see somebody?' He said sure, but he thought they were talking about the cable process.”
From there the officers allegedly handcuffed Goines and took him to Augusta Health's Crossroads Mental Health Center and filed a temporary detention order, all with Goines asking, ‘why am I here?”
A clinician's report says Goines seemed disoriented and even mentioned hallucinations, but doctors say that doesn't sound right. “In general, most people with CA are cognitively intact.” Phillips said.
Goines was finally released after six days in isolation. Now, he's suing three Waynesboro police officers for unlawful seizure and false imprisonment. He's also filed suit against a clinician with the Valley Community Services Board, alleging that person wasn't licensed when she interviewed him.
“What you saw here were two huge mistakes. We need to protect people's rights. They shouldn't be taken out of their home because they had slurred speech.” Whitehead said.
As for Goines, he says he is now on a mission. “Because they think they can do whatever they want to people, and it happens a whole lot,” he stated.
Several other people are being sued by Goines in this case, but their names are still not known, pending further investigation.
The Waynesboro Police Department and the Valley Community Services Board both declined to comment for this story.