Former preschool teacher sues city over stun gun incident
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A former preschool teacher at Under the Magic Pine Tree is suing the city of South Lake Tahoe, numerous police and fire officials and ambulance operators in federal court over an incident last year that his attorney said quite literally forced him into the hospital.
The lawsuit alleges that police officers and paramedics ignored Roland Haas’ right to deny medical treatment and used excessive force when they made him visit Barton Memorial Hospital last year. He is seeking an undisclosed amount in compensatory damages.
The city has declined to comment on the lawsuit. Police do not have a report of the incident, but there is record of officers responding to a “medical assistance” call at the preschool, said department spokesman Dave Stevenson.
The following account was taken from the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento last week.
Haas was working at the preschool about 3 p.m. March 23 when he felt lightheaded. The 30-year-old teacher stepped into the hallway and fell to the ground. Someone called 911.
By the time paramedics arrived in an ambulance, Haas was standing on his own in front of the mirror in the school’s bathroom. He declined medical treatment, but paramedics insisted Haas get in their ambulance and be driven across the street to Barton Memorial Hospital, according to the suit.
“For one thing he didn’t feel he needed to and for another he didn’t want to get slapped with a bill for an ambulance,” said Haas’ lawyer Edward Rizzuto Monday.
Haas continued to decline the ambulance, saying he would walk to the hospital or get a ride from a coworker. According to the complaint, the paramedics said he didn’t have a choice. At this time, Haas went back into his classroom. The paramedics called the South Lake Tahoe police for assistance.
Police officers entered Haas’ classroom, ordered everyone but Haas to leave and told him he had to comply with the paramedics, according to the complaint. Again, Haas said he did not want medical treatment and would not be taken to Barton in an ambulance. He then moved toward the exit of the classroom.
The complaint alleges police tackled and used a stun gun up to three times on Haas. Once he was restrained, the paramedics injected him with Midazolam, a potent tranquilizer, according to the complaint.
“After plaintiff Roland Haas has been tackled, restrained, seized, handcuffed, drive-stun tasered three times, injected with a tranquilizer, and hobbled (by shackles), the police officers and the paramedics forced plaintiff Roland Haas onto an ambulance gurney, placed additional restraints upon his body and placed him inside an ambulance in order to transport him to Barton Memorial Hospital,” Rizzuto said in the complaint.
Emergency room staff discharged Haas in 13 minutes, according to the complaint. He then underwent a mental health evaluation by a representative from the El Dorado County Department of Mental Health. Haas was determined not to be a danger in any way to himself or others, according to the complaint.
Haas is suing on the grounds that the police and paramedics violated his right to refuse medical treatment and used excessive force. Haas was not arrested on any charges. He returned to the hospital that night to receive a diagnosis of wounds he received during the scuffle with the police and paramedics, according to the complaint.
Haas left Under the Magic Pine Tree about six months ago of his own accord, said owner Kandice Bailey.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.