A former Alexandria, Virginia, police officer who trained other officers on how to deal with mentally ill subjects was found guilty of assaulting a man he took to the hospital for care.
Former Officer Jonathan Griffin was a neighbor of the man he’s accused of assaulting. They lived on the same floor at an Old Town high rise for senior citizens and people with disabilities.
Griffin was there as part of a community policing program.
Griffin testified James Lenzen was known to have mental health problems.
He said on Jan. 27 when he approached Lenzen, the man took a fighting stance and moved toward him.
Griffin handcuffed him and took him to Inova Alexandria Hospital under an emergency custody order.
Video played in court shows Griffin walking the handcuffed man to the emergency room check-in desk when Lenzen suddenly hits the floor after the officer kicks his legs out from under him.
“Because he was getting more and more aggravated and trying to resist my control of him,” Griffin testified. “I thought he might be trying to harm others in the ER, himself or me.”
Griffin said a doctor was walking toward them when he made the decision to take the 53-year-old to the ground.
Lenzen suffered a broken knee and his face was bruised and bloodied.
Prosecutors challenged the use of force. Griffin testified Lenzen did not threaten him or physically try to harm him that day. He said he couldn’t recall if Lenzen said he wanted to harm someone else.
The judge ruled there was no evidence he was defending himself or needed to be fearful others would be hurt. She gave him a suspended sentence so there will be no jail time. An appeal is likely.
The victim was not present in court. He was arrested in July and charged with assaulting an emergency room nurse.