Austin police facing lawsuit for injuring man’s shoulder during mental health call, lawyer says

AUSTIN, Texas — Six Austin Police Department officers are facing an excessive force lawsuit over a November 2017 incident in which a man’s shoulder was allegedly injured during a mental health call.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, plaintiff James Templeton said a group of Austin police officers came out of the bushes when he arrived home from work on Nov. 17, 2017, and detained him at gunpoint.

Templeton said the officers wouldn’t tell him at first why they were there or why they were detaining him, but he later learned they were doing a wellness check.

“Somebody called [police] and said, ‘Hey, you need to go check on this guy,'” Templeton said. 

During the process, Templeton said the officers badly injured his shoulder. According to the lawsuit filed Thursday by Templeton and his attorney, Brian McGiverin of the Austin Community Law Center, the officers “wrenched his arm behind him causing him extreme pain. They twisted his hands 180 [degrees] and closed the handcuffs tightly so he could not rotate his hands, which caused pain to his shoulder.”

McGiverin said this resulted in injury to Templeton’s rotator cuff and that the officers ignored Templeton’s cries of pain for hours. 

The injury required extensive surgery.

Austin police sued

Austin Community Law Center

“I was not armed when they attacked me. And it doesn’t matter anyway. I was doing nothing wrong. I was in my own house in my own driveway,” Templeton said.

At the press conference, Templeton said he was involuntarily detained for 61 hours at Austin Lakes Hospital in Central Austin after the incident.

“The officers ultimately took our client to involuntary civil commitment without legal justification, taking his liberty without due process of law,” McGiverin said.

McGiverin and Templeton claim the officers violated Templeton’s Fourteenth Amendment rights and used excessive force.

WATCH: VIDEO: Man says Austin police injured his shoulder during mental health call

RELATED: Mandatory mental health training on its way for Austin patrol officers

The City of Austin provided the following statement on Thursday:

“The City of Austin learned about the lawsuit during last night’s City Council’s budget hearings. The City and the Austin Police Officers have not yet been served. The Austin Police Department is familiar with the incident in which its officers responded to a call for an individual in crisis. We are prepared to defend the City and the actions of its officers in response to the call.”

All Austin officers will soon be required to take more mental health training. This comes less than a month after officers shot and killed a man who was reportedly going through a mental crisis at the time. 

The required mental health training is expected to start in January 2020.

You can read the lawsuit in full below:

WATCH: APD working to improve responses to mental health calls


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