JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The family of a man who died after he was hit by Tasers twice on the same day in December has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
The lawsuit claims that excessive force was used on Paul Testa, who had been arrested for trespassing Dec. 21, but was ordered to a mental health facility by a judge.
The attorney who filed the lawsuit on the family's behalf said that nearly eight months after Testa's death, there are still a lot of unknowns. Attorney Ted Pina said the Sheriff's Office has still not given him a police report or video of the incident from inside the jail.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said there are many reasons, not just the ongoing investigation, why the Sheriff’s Office might not release the video.
“If it’s video that’s inside the jail, it could give away locations of the cameras and how corrections procedures are used,” Smith said. “It could show doors opening and closing. It could have a control panel that shows what buttons are used to open and close things.”
According to police, Testa was acting strange in the booking area, saying he wanted to see his deceased father, and told police he'd been diagnosed as schizophrenic, but he wasn't on any medication.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in July, the first Taser incident was just after 8 a.m., before Testa made his first appearance in the jail courtroom.
In court, the charges were dropped, and the judge ordered Testa to undergo a mental evaluation, to which Testa agreed.
“Paul Testa had no criminal record. He was not under any charges at the time of his death,” Pina said.
While waiting for transport to the Mental Health Resource Center, Testa became combative with corrections officers and was hit with a Taser again and became unresponsive, the lawsuit says.
He was taken to UF Health, where doctors determined he was in cardiac arrest.
Despite being brain dead, Testa was handcuffed to the bed by police officers, the lawsuit said.
He never regained consciousness and died five days later, after being taken off life support.
Pina said Testa's death has been hard on his 19-year-old son, Christian.
“His father was his best friend. His father raised him,” Pina said. “Paul Testa worked two jobs to put his son through school. Not only has he been torn from him, but they’ve got no explanation, no idea what happened whatsoever.”
Pina said he is hoping that some changes come from the lawsuit that will prevent something like this in the future.
“This is something that simply should not happen,” Pina said. “When somebody is under no criminal charges, has no criminal record, and needs help and ends up dead, it shouldn’t happen.”
Neither JSO nor the city's Office of General Counsel had any comment on the lawsuit.