Lewisville Police Officers took down a 67 year-old woman with Alzheimer’s, who was threatening officers and her husband with a letter opener. Now officers and the department face a civil rights lawsuit.
A Lewisville man and his wife are suing the City of Lewisville Police Department and six officers for what they claim was a violation of their civil rights, and excessive force by officers who responded to their home on a welfare concern this past May. Police officials will not comment on pending litigation, so the following account is constructed from the complaint as well as the Lewisville Police Department’s call notes, incident report, and Use of Force report, which LTJ obtained today.
The suit, filed in Federal District Court on September 24th seeks unspecified damages after police injured 67 year-old Delores Seyfried while trying to subdue and disarm her. Seyfried suffers from Alzheimers dementia.The incident started on May 29th at about 7 a.m. when David Seyfried, the woman’s husband, left a message with an answering service for the National Alzheimer's Association hotline, stating that he was having a difficult time taking care of Delores. The answering service relayed the message to the Dallas Alzheimers Association, who had an employee contact him about 2 p.m. According to a police report, David told the employee that his wife had a letter opener and was upset and threatening to kill him. The employee urged David to get out of the house, and then she contacted police.
Dispatch notes show that officers were made aware that the wife had Alzheimers, and that she was 68 years old (the lawsuit complaint says 67) and had a weapon and a history of using physical force against her husband. The notes also show the dispatcher advised that the husband was intoxicated. A couple minutes later, the complainant, on the phone with dispatch advised that the wife had threatened to kill the husband, and that the husband had already been stabbed in the arm, and was waiting in the driveway.
According to the police report, at about 2:13 p.m., about 11 minutes after the first call, Sergeant Courtney Letalien and Officer George Reed responded to the residence. Reed approached and walked around the side of the house, and first contacted David, who he said had been trying to jam the back gate shut with his car keys to keep his wife in the backyard. At first, David said that he needed help, and Reed noted that he was bleeding from a fresh scratch on his wrist. According to Reed, David became angry that police were at his house, and still on the phone with the Alzheimers association employee, told her to “f**k off”. When Reed told David that officers heard he had been stabbed, he allegedly screamed at them that his wife didn’t do anything.
Reed said that he was trying to convince David to walk to the front of the house for his own safety when David saw Letalien walk around to the side of the house carrying the less-lethal shotgun. At that point, police say David became enraged, cursing at the officers, saying “What the f**k is that!!?? F**k you!! That is NOT necessary!! No, no no!! F**k you!!!” Sgt. Letalien tried to explain that the shotgun, which David’s complaint described as “orange” only shoots bean bags, and that is was for the officers own safety since she has a weapon. David’s story tells it a bit differently, saying that he “repeatedly pleaded” with the officers that he could calm her down without force, and that she was not a threat to anyone. Both sides agree that at this point Letalien sent him to the front of the house, although David says he was “forced”, and Reed says Letalien “coached” him. Letalien stayed with David, who she says continued to curse at her and tell her “put that f**king gun away!”
At this point, Reed’s report says that he walked to the back gate and opened it. Delores then walked out of the house into the back yard, while holding a letter opener, which the Seyfried’s claim was 4-5 inches, and which the police report describes as silver, long, thin, sharp, and dagger-shaped. Reed says Delores looked at him and said “I will f**king kill you,” then started walking very quickly at him, gritting her teeth and clenching her hands. After commanding her to drop the letter opener, Reed says he fired his taser at her chest when she got within several feet of him and had jabbed at him with the letter opener. The taser did not land both probes into her, and she turned away and ran back into the back yard, which did not allow Reed to drive stun her.
Hearing the taser deploy, at this point, according to the police report, Letalien ran back around to the back of the house with the less-lethal shotgun. When she came back around to where Reed was, he was backing up while reloading the taser. Letalien said that she saw Delores with the weapon holding it with the blade pointed outward, and still advancing toward Reed, about 10-12 feet away, as if she were planning to stab him. Letalien quickly took aim and shot Delores in the thigh. Reed says both of them were continually yelling at her to drop the letter opener. The first bean bag round did not stop the woman, who allegedly still walked towards officers.
At this point, Reed says David came back to the back yard, where he was standing dangerously close to Delores, who officers say became more angry with him there, and pointed the letter opener at him. Letalien fired another bean bag round at the woman’s other thigh, which caused her legs to buckle, and she fell to the ground. Officers say she cursed and threatened the officers and David, and still would not drop the letter opener. Delores got back up and walked back towards the back yard, away from officers. At this point, Letalien shot her with another round, to the right buttock, which had little effect. Letalien switched to her taser, and shot Delores in the back, where both probes connected and the woman stopped and fell forward.
Reed then got one handcuff on the woman while the taser was still under power, but says in his report that she began to resist when the taser cycle completed, kicking at officers, and keeping her left wrist clinched under her body, not complying with verbal commands. At this point, Reed says Letalien activated the taser for a second cycle, and he was able to get the woman’s left wrist cuffed, and take the letter opener away. Reed said that once he sat her up, she was wrenching her wrists, and he thought she was going to break the chain on his handcuffs. "She was very strong and extremely violent," said Reed in his report.
Officers noted that the woman had a softball-sized blood spot on her jeans, likely from the impact of one of the bean bag rounds. Delores was transported at 2:40 p.m. by medics to Denton Regional hospital, accompanied by Officer C. Cassells, because of what Letalien said was her continued violence. Cassells photographed the woman’s injuries, which included a chipped tooth which may or may not have happened during the incident, a knot on her forehead, a bruise on one thigh, and a tennis-ball sized hole on the outside of the other thigh, where the skin appeared to be “flapped open”. She also had a cut on her chin, and a broken wrist. Officer Cassels said that Delores was confused at the hospital and was asking staff there what happened. Delores told officer Cassels that she needed to acquire a gun.
The lawsuit states that the bone break was in two places, requiring a metal plate and screws to fix. The complaint also asserts that the event has increased the severity of her Alzheimers to the point that she now requires around-the-clock nursing staff.
In addition to the excessive force complaint, David Seyfried also claims in his suit that LPD officers Cassels and Lieutenant Michael Moore violated their Fourth Amendment rights by searching the house after the incident. The reports that LTJ received from the Lewisville Police Department do not mention any search. Seyfried claims that the incident has resulted in injuries, severe emotional distress and trauma, mental and physical pain and suffering, pecuniary loss, and a loss of his earning capacity due to his need to care for her at all times. Seyfried also seeks exemplary (or punitive) damages based on his assertion that the officers acted with malice.
The officers were required under the department’s use of force policy to file a Use of Force Report, which is reviewed by a supervisor and passed up the chain of command to the Police Chief. The report showed that it was reviewed by Lt. Moore, and determined that Letalien and Reed acted in accordance with department policy. There has been no arrest in the case, but call notes mention that the Alzheimer’s Association employee wanted to make a report to Adult Protective Services (APS). The lawsuit alleged that LPD officers encouraged her to call APS.
As of Tuesday night, the City of Lewisville had not filed a response to the lawsuit. The Lewisville Texan Journal will provide updates as they are available.