On January 13th of this year, 70-year-old San Antonio resident Thomas Mathieu was driving along a frontage road when he felt the onset of a diabetic attack. Fearing that he might have an accident and harm others, he pulled over onto the shoulder of the road. After successfully stopping his vehicle, he lost consciousness.
Police noticed his vehicle on the side of the road and stopped to investigate. News 4 San Antonio is reporting that, upon discovering Mathieu unconscious in his car, officers confused him for a drunk driver and ordered him out of the vehicle. Given that Mathieu was unconscious and unable to hear the orders, he did not comply. An officer reached into the vehicle to force him out and, when he did not cooperate, punched Mathieu several times.
The officers wrestled him to the ground and threatened to taze him. Five minutes into the encounter, another policeman on the scene thought to ask whether or not Mathieu might be diabetic and suffering from a low blood sugar episode.
After the assault, Mathieu was hospitalized for injuries to the arms, face, and head and suffered three broken ribs. The officer who was seen on video punching him reported that he feared the unconscious Mathieu was reaching to switch the car in gear and wanted to prevent him from driving back onto the roadway and potentially injuring others.
San Antonio Police Department Chief Bill McManus commented that the case had been sent to internal affairs, but that the officers involved had been cleared of wrongdoing. He also pointed out that the department does train police to identify a diabetic episode.
Police departments across the nation have struggled to properly educate officers on how to deal with people suffering from diabetic shock. In 2012, the Henderson, Nevada city council paid $158,500 in damages to another man who was beaten by police in a similar situation. The New Jersey Star Ledger also reported on another case in which officers assaulted a man suffering from diabetic shock back in 2010. Coincidentally, the victim of the assault in the New Jersey case, Daniel Fried, had, prior to the incident, created a video for the American Diabetes Association which instructs police officers on how to identify when an individual is suffering from a diabetic episode. Ever since a 2003 case in which the city government of Philadelphia was ordered to pay damages to diabetic suspects who were denied care while in police custody, the American Diabetes Association has been working with police departments around the country to provide training and information on how to deal with individuals suffering from the disease.
News 4 San Antonio‘s video coverage of the beating of Thomas Mathieu, including dash cam footage, can be seen in the player below.