by Don Thompson | The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO — A 65-year-old Northern California man was paralyzed after being slammed to the ground during a traffic stop where police officers used “pain compliance” techniques and expressed disbelief when he repeatedly said “I’m on my feet.” Can’t feel the legs” shouted. According to a lawsuit announced Wednesday.
Police video released by Gregory Gross’s lawyers shows the incident and his arrival at the hospital, where Gross is handcuffed to a bed, bleeding from his nose.
“You want to grab his arms and flop him on the bed?” Someone asks if Gross tells a medical worker that he cannot feel his feet. Then they do so by keeping him in a sitting position without straining his neck or spine.
“Don’t tell me again you can’t move,” a medical worker tells Gross afterward as he prepares for a full body scan. Gross eventually needed two surgeries to realign his spine. In separate lawsuits, Gross alleged that a combination of police and medical malpractice made him unable to walk or care for himself, and that he would need round-the-clock nursing care for the rest of his life.
He sued Rideout Memorial Hospital in Marysville last August along with the University of California, Davis, Medical Center and individual medical staff. The new trial claims Yuba City Police Officer Joshua Jackson broke Gross’s neck. It names Jackson, fellow officers Scott Hansen and Nathan Livingston, and Yuba City. The lawsuit alleges that Hansen aided in Jackson’s repeated use of force and that Livingston failed to intervene.
The department said Wednesday that Jackson has not been employed by the Yuba City Police Department since February 2021. Officials there could not immediately tell whether he had his own lawyer.
The department and Yuba City said in a joint statement that they had not been assigned a lawsuit and could not comment. Officials at Rideout Hospital did not respond to telephone and emailed comment requests.
“It’s about police brutality that destroyed his life,” said Gross’s attorney, Moseley Collins. With enough money secured to pay for his lifelong care, Collins said, “Greg doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
Gross, an Army veteran living in Yuba City, was charged in April 2020 with drunk driving and slow collision. He faces a jury trial in Sutter County, north of Sacramento, in March on charges of misdemeanor DUI, hit-and-run, and resisting arrest.
In police body camera video provided by Gross’s lawyers, an officer identified as Jackson is seen turning Gross’s handcuffs and forcing him to sit on a lawn.
“You can start going with the program,” the officer tells Gross, who protests that “I didn’t do anything” and “it hurts.”
“It’s called pain compliance,” says another officer, to which Gross – now seated with his head forward – responds that he is not protesting.
An officer tells Gross repeatedly and abusively that he is in pain.
Timothy T. Williams Jr., a police strategy expert who spent nearly 30 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, said that based on the video, the officers seemed to be overreacting.
Pain compliance, such as using a wrist lock, is a common technique with someone who resists, he said. But in this case, Gross was already in handcuffs and was being taken away in a patrol car.
“Obviously he wasn’t moving fast enough for them,” Williams said.
“From what I saw, there was no need for pain compliance,” he said. “There was no need to drive him to the ground.”
He also questioned the officer while turning and suddenly raising Sakal’s handcuffs.
“It’s something that wasn’t taught during my time there,” said Williams, who served from 1974-2003. “If you don’t know what you’re doing you can take it (his shoulder) out of its socket.”
Officials later banned gross facedowns on the lawn outside the hospital.
“I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” Gross says.
“You’re talking. You can breathe,” officers tell Gross as he groans and slurs his words, his nose now covered in blood and a cut on his eyebrow.
“I can’t feel my feet,” Gross says repeatedly as he is placed in a wheelchair. “I can’t feel my arms.”
“Mr. Gross, we are done with your silly little game,” an official told him.
Later, inside the hospital, Jackson tells Gross: “I only slammed you on the ground once, sir, and it was very controlling.”
Williams said the authorities seemed to have acted improperly by ignoring repeated complaints of Gross not feeling limbs.
“You don’t make that assumption. You’re not a doctor, you don’t know what that person is going through,” Williams said.
Gross said he was physically active before his injury, working as a seasonal truck driver, walking his dogs 2-4 miles at a time, swimming and cooking.
He now spends his time on a hospital bed in his living room. Although he could move his arms, he said he could not write or do other activities because his fingers contracted from the paralysis.
“I just lay in bed all day,” said Gross, who was strapped to a gurney at a news conference. “I just exist, basically.”
Associated Press writer Adam Beam contributed to this story.