A man from Wells has sued York County alleging that an officer at the county jail used a Taser to subdue him while two other officers restrained him, actions he claims amounted to “torture.”

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Portland, names York County, York County Sheriff William L. King Jr. and jail officers Eric Daigneault, Donovan Cram and Matthew Rocchio as defendants.

“Torture is a strong word, but it is the only way to describe what happened to Brian,” said Dunnigan’s lawyer, Benjamin N. Donahue of Portland, in a phone interview Wednesday evening.

York County has not yet responded to the lawsuit and King did not respond to a phone message or email Wednesday evening. King is named in the suit because he has final say over jail policies and procedures. He is named only in his official capacity.

“As a matter of practice, York County does not comment on matters involving litigation,” York County Manager Gregory T. Zinzer said in an email, according to News Center Maine (WCSH/WLBZ).

The alleged incident took place Feb. 16, 2018, after Ogunquit police arrested Dunnigan on disorderly conduct charges at That Place, a restaurant and bar in Ogunquit, according to court documents. Police transported Dunnigan to the jail in Alfred where he was booked and placed in a cell by himself.

Dunnigan informed jail officers that he was diabetic and insulin dependent, and that he had recently undergone shoulder surgery. Dunnigan told the officers he could die if his diabetic condition was not treated.

“Confined in his cell, Brian continued to demand medical attention – at times more aggressively. But instead of insulin, York County correctional officers, fed up with Brian’s banter and continued requests, decided to provide him with a different form of treatment,” the civil suit alleges.

The lawsuit alleges that Daigneault entered the cell with a Taser on the premise of calming him down “and proceeded to torture Brian, shocking his chest with the Taser for almost a minute while his fellow correctional officers pinned Brian to the ground.”

This photo provided by Brian Dunnigan’s attorney, Ben Donahue, was taken one day after he was released from the York County Jail. Dunnigan says he was tortured by guards. Photo courtesy Ben Donahue

According to Dunnigan’s account, Daigneault “rammed his Taser into Brian’s chest and pulled the trigger.” A photograph of the burns that Dunnigan allegedly sustained from the Taser is part of his court filing.

Dunnigan’s attorney described the Taser as model X26, which is used to control subjects in a jail setting. That model can be used in either probe or drive stun mode, Donahue said. Probe mode allows Tasers to be discharged at distances of 15 feet while drive stun mode allows the Taser to be used as a contact weapon.

Unlike the probe mode, which sends an electric current through a person’s body, the drive stun mode “inflicts an unbearable pain, burning the subject into submission with what is essentially a supercharged cattle prod,” court documents allege.

The suit alleges that jail officers were not trained properly in the use of Tasers, which should only be used to protect officer safety.

The suit says that before the confrontation Dunnigan remained alone in his cell.

“He did not pose a physical threat to correctional officers, other inmates or himself,” the suit says. However, the suit does acknowledge that Dunnigan’s discomfort escalated and that he repeatedly tried to get the attention of jail officers.

Dunnigan, a former paramedic, and his attorney allege that the incident resulted in Dunnigan suffering three broken ribs, permanent scars on his chest from Taser burns, and emotional and mental trauma as a result of being shocked and held to the ground.

The suit says that Dunnigan was released from the York County Jail the next day. The misdemeanor charges against him were dismissed, “but the injuries sustained that evening will haunt Brian for the rest of his life.”

Donahue said it could take several months before the case goes to a jury trial. The amount of damages sought by his client will be left up to the court to determine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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