Elderly man injured in deputy confrontation

Justo Santander

June 25, 2010 9:04:20 AM PDT
A Durham family says they want justice after they claim a deputy beat up their grandfather who has Alzheimer's.On Tuesday, 79-year-old Justo Santander was rushed to the emergency room suffering from a black eye, a bloodied cut and a concussion following a run-in with a Durham County Sheriff's Deputy.

"I don't know what he could do to receive this kind of treatment," Santander'a grandson Adrian Zamora said.

The 79-year-old had gone missing earlier in the week and ended up 12 miles away in Bahama. He was knocking on the door of a complete stranger's house when a deputy responded to the scene.

Sheriff's investigators say Santander wouldn't respond to the deputy's questions, but unbeknownst to the deputy, he was dealing with an Alzheimer's patient who didn't speak English. Plus, they say, Santander was holding a mysterious item in one of his hands.

"When he reached to get it, the individual wouldn't ... during that struggle the individual ended up on the deputy's gun side," said Captain Donald Ladd with the Durham County Sheriff's Office."

The mysterious item turned out to be a plastic cigar tube. The deputy also found a pack of disposable razors and a sharpened pencil.

The deputy claims it was not an assault. He said in an attempt to control Santander, both men fell to the ground.

But from the looks of a bruised and sore Santander, his family says it's a story they do not believe.

"I don't think he fell down, because if somebody fell down, the first thing you do is put your hands in front of your face," Zamora said.

Santander's wife says he was wearing a medical alert necklace at the time of the incident.

"I'm very concerned, because he's not a bad person," Celsa Lopez said. "He's never been a delinquent; he's never done bad things."

But they're convinced a bad thing happened, even though the sheriff's office maintains that's not the case.

"It weighs heavily, all the way to the point that the deputy felt the need to go to the hospital and sit with the individual until the family got there," Ladd said.

Investigators say if the family had reported Santander missing; there would've been a Silver Alert and possibly a different outcome.

For now, the deputy is still on the job under an internal review. The department has yet to decide whether to take any disciplinary action.

Santander's family says if they do not, they will legally.

"Just please, this officer needs to be punished by law," Zamora said. "Please take action that's the only thing that I want --justice."

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