Northern California man sues police who paralyzed him during traffic stop, mocked his cries for help

Attorneys representing Gregory Gross, a 65-year-old Northern California man, have served officers from the Yuba City Police Department, north of the state capital of Sacramento, with a lawsuit over their mistreatment of Gross during an April 2020 traffic stop which resulted in his permanent paralysis. The attorneys had also sued Rideout Memorial Hospital, along with the University of California, Davis, Medical Center and some individual medical workers last August for their involvement in the incident as well.

Launching the lawsuit, attorney Moseley Collins stated, “It’s about police brutality that destroyed his life.” Along with obtaining money to pay for his life-long care and nursing needs, Collins said that Gross was motivated by his desire not to see this happen to anyone else.

Gross, a seasonal truck driver, was accused of driving drunk and causing a slow-speed collision at the time of the incident. He faces a jury trial in March on charges of misdemeanor DUI (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol), hit-and-run and resisting arrest.

Police body cam footage has since come into possession of the prosecuting attorneys, which clearly demonstrates that Gross never represented any kind of threat whatsoever to the officers. The attack on Gross, who is white, bears resemblance to the murder of George Floyd, who was black, by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota a month later.

The Yuba City police officers involved in Gross’ arrest stated both during and after the incident that they were employing “pain compliance” against the man. Officer Joshua Jackson is seen in the video twisting Gross’ arms and neck in order to force him into various uncomfortable positions. “It’s called pain compliance,” Jackson says. “It will continue to hurt if you don’t shut up and listen.”

According to police use of force experts, the use of pain compliance is only acceptable under conditions where the arrested person has not been subdued and is actively resisting the efforts of the arresting officers. In Gross’ case, the responding officer already had him in handcuffs and was in the midst of escorting him to a patrol car. Gross, while walking slowly, was not putting up any serious resistance to the escort.

In spite of this, Jackson repeatedly manhandled Gross, at one point suddenly trying to raise his handcuffed arms above his head and putting him in various wrestling-inspired “choke” positions. Gross complained that he could not breathe and that the positions were seriously hurting him. Another office replied, “Mr. Gross, we are done with your silly little games.”

As is almost always the case in such circumstances, the officers told Gross that they had to be violent with him as he was “resisting.” Gross responds “I’m not resisting. Why are you doing this?” Jackson smirks and responds that “you’re just not going with the program.”

After putting Gross into a patrol car and driving him to nearby Rideout Memorial Hospital, the officers once again pushed Gross to the ground and applied immense pressure to his upper back and neck area outside of the emergency room entrance. Gross told the officers that he cannot breathe, and like the police who killed George Floyd the next month, the officers respond “You’re talking. You can breathe.”

The most horrifying moment of the video then occurs when the officers try to lift the 65-year-old, who exclaims, “I can’t feel my legs.” The officers reply, “Stand up like a man. You can feel your legs.” After Gross is placed into a wheelchair, the video shows Gross’ nose with blood smeared all around his nose and eyes, likely the result of his face having been forced into the ground by the arresting officers. Gross repeats, “I can’t feel my legs. I’m sorry. Dear God, help me. I can’t feel my legs.”

One nurse in the emergency room asks what happened and an officer replies that Gross was injured in the process of being “assisted to the ground,” as several horrified hospital workers look on. What can then be apparently seen on the video is some medical workers unfortunately taking the police at their word that Gross was only pretending to be injured with personnel not making attempt to secure his neck and shoulders when transporting him from one bed to another, possibly leading to further spinal trauma.

After doctors realized that Gross was in fact telling the truth, he required spinal surgery as a result of his injuries, including a six-level posterior fusion at C3-T2 and a laminectomy at C4-C6. He required a second surgery the very next day, involving an anterior fusion at C5-C6. Nonetheless, the leg paralysis turned out to be permanent and the spinal injuries have also caused paralysis to his fingers. Gross is now no longer able to write or grasp objects.

According to one of Gross’ treating doctors, Christopher Stephenson, the 65-year-old veteran will require nursing care 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the rest of his life along with a nursing case manager 3 to 5 hours per month and a nurse supervisor. Prior to the police incident, Gross had been taking care of his fiancée, who is a double leg amputee.

The story of Gregory Gross is only one of thousands upon thousands which occur every year in the United States. Even as the pandemic has disrupted daily life for millions of workers in innumerable ways, the wanton sadism employed by the police against defenseless members of the working class has in no way diminished.

Millions of people took to the streets in 2020, both in the US and internationally, to protest against the horrific police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and hundreds other innocent people. Much of the of anger at the time was justifiably directed against the would-be-dictator and then-President Donald Trump, however, elements within the Democratic Party couched the killings in purely racial terms while sowing illusions that a new Democratic president would stop the carnage.

The phenomenon of police violence is presented by the Democrats as simply the product of racial animus by whites against blacks. While African Americans are disproportionately represented in the percentages of people killed by police, they make up between 20 to 25 percent of the total of those killed by police each year. The largest share of victims, like Gross, are white, and nearly all those subjected to the brutality of the police are working class or poor.

Democratic politicians across the country have joined with their Republican counterparts in funneling military-grade weaponry and supplies to departments across the country, while at the same time shielding officers from any responsibility for state-sanctioned murder. The Biden administration has allowed for tens of millions of dollars in pandemic relief aid to be handed over to the police. Since January 2021, when Biden assumed office, 1,124 people have been killed at the hands of the police, only three less than Trump’s final year in the White House.

According to a recent study published last September by the University of Washington and The Lancet, yearly death counts from police extending from 1980 to 2018 were in fact gross undercounts. The study found that about 55 percent of fatal encounters with the police in that timeframe were actually listed as another cause of death. In other words, the number of people killed by police is likely two times higher than what is being reported.