POLICE STATE USA
LOMA LINDA, CA — When a 65-year-old veteran tried to discharge himself from a VA hospital, he received a fatal beating from police, his widow alleges in a federal lawsuit.
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Jonathan Montano, 65, survived the Vietnam War, but he did not survive the Department of Veterans Affairs. His widow, Norma Montano, has come forth with a complaint against the VA describing how beating by police caused him to die an untimely death.
Mr. Montano was a dialysis patient who sought care at the VA hospital in Loma Linda, California. However, the long wait times proved impossible for him to endure. On May 25th, 2011, After waiting 4 hours without receiving his treatment, he became “frustrated” and “decided to leave the hospital and to go to the VA Hospital in Long Beach,” the complaint states.
As Norma went to fetch the car, Mr. Montano was told by nurses that he may not leave. Hospital staff summoned the on-site enforcers from the Department of Veterans Affairs Police Department. They were told to physically prevent him from leaving.
A few minutes later, when Norma returned, she discovered her husband was bruised and bloodied. A staff member held up her arms and said, “all I know is he fell and had a stroke,” Norma recalled.
But Norma remained suspicious about how one fall could have caused so many cuts and bruises. The next day, a different nurse told Norma what really happened. According to the account, police threw Mr. Montano to the floor when he insisted on leaving. Five officers violently restrained him. During the scuffle, Montano’s head struck the floor.
“‘I’m the one who cleaned all the blood off of his face,” the nurse confessed to Norma. The nurse’s version of events directly contradicted what Norma had been told earlier.
“Why are they lying? What are they covering up?” asked Norma Montano to KTTV. “All these bruises, cuts. That wasn’t from the fall.”
Mr. Montano was in no condition to explain what happened. He struggled to survive for the next 2 weeks. On June 11, 2011, he succumbed to his injuries. Norma became a widow after 44 years of marriage.
Attorney Jerry Steering explained Mr. Montano’s injuries after an autopsy had been performed: “Somebody put enough pressure on the left side of his neck to crush the inside part of the carotid artery. It broke off into little pieces, and formed the blood clot, that formed the stroke, that killed Mr. Montano.”
A federal lawsuit was filed in May 2014. It alleged that police assaulted Montano by “tackling him to the floor, slamming his head on the floor, and kneeing and stomping on his neck, and otherwise brutalizing and restraining him.”
The agency investigated itself and declared itself clear of wrongdoing. The $18 million lawsuit seeks to send a message to the VA and compensate the family for their loss.
With the recent VA scandal involving the agency’s infamously long waiting lists, it seems that if the treatment delays don’t kill the veterans, the VA police just might.