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Florida man sues police for being shot and Tasered after 911 call

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - A Florida man who was shot in the chest and Tasered during a struggle with police is suing his local police department, claiming officers unjustly used excessive force against him after he suffered an epileptic seizure.

Abel Martinez, 40, was charged with battery and resisting arrest following a struggle with police officers inside his Pembroke Pines home in June 2010 after his family called 911 when he began to behave erratically.

When police arrived, they found Martinez distraught and dressed only in his underwear, and he struggled with police, according to court documents. He was not armed during the incident, police said.

A jury later acquitted Martinez of the charges.

Carl Bober, an attorney for Martinez, claimed police used too much force to restrain him.

"His family called 911 to seek medical assistance and the police ended up coming in ... and he ends up getting shot and Tasered," Bober said.

A review of the incident by the Pembroke Pines Police Department found the use of force was "justifiable and in compliance with department policies and procedures" because Martinez was behaving violently.

"There was probable cause, and the actions were reasonable," said attorney Bruce Johnson, who represents the police department.

A police officer said Martinez hit him in the head with a pair of handcuffs, according to court documents. Martinez has said he was in a state of confusion after the seizure.

Police in South Florida have come under increased scrutiny and criticism for using harsh tactics. Last year, Israel Hernandez-Llach, 18, died after being Tasered by Miami Beach police when they discovered him spray-painting the side of a vacant building early one morning.

The family of a 22-year-old man who in 2011 was shot 16 times in a hail of bullets from police during a Miami Beach hip-hop festival filed a wrongful death lawsuit against two Miami police departments last year.

Bober said Martinez is seeking damages for pain and suffering and wants to be reimbursed for the medical and legal bills he incurred after his arrest.

"He had to pay a lawyer to represent him in order to get acquitted," Bober said. "He's undergoing psychiatric treatment, he hasn't worked, he spent time incarcerated and his home was almost foreclosed."

(Editing by David Adams and Jonathan Oatis)

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