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Family files suit over taser death

SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP, Ohio (Angenette Levy) -- The family of a mentally ill man who was shocked by a taser and died last summer has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that sheriff's deputies used excessive force.

Hamilton Co. Sheriff's deputies used a taser on Gary Roell, 59, in August 2013. A woman had called 911 to report Roell had broken windows in the back of her house. When sheriff's deputies arrived, Roell was naked from the waist down and holding a flower pot in one hand and a garden hose in the other. Deputies and Roell scuffled and the sheriff said Roell hit one of the deputies in the face. A diagram from the sheriff's office showed Roell had been struck twice in the back and twice in the chest with the prongs of an X2 Taser.

"Gary Roell Sr. was in the midst of a very serious psychiatric crisis but he was not harmful. He had destroyed some property but he wasn't threatening anybody's life, he wasn't attacking anybody...unfortunately the Hamilton County Sheriffs just went hands on and wrestled with him, and tased his six times and he died," said attorney Al Gerhardstein who represents Roell's family.

"Their primary goal is to make sure a tragic death like this does not happen again," said attorney Al Gerhardstein who represents Roell's family. He added, "We hope through this to get better training when you get involved with mentally ill people. Better taser training, they tased him to the chest and better supervision for these types of incidents."

At the time of Roell's death, his son told Local 12 News that he was not angry with the sheriff's deputies for using the taser on his father. Gary Roell said his father was not taking his medication at the time of the incident. But the family has had a change of heart alleging the sheriff's deputies did not use proper procedures in dealing with a mentally ill person and may have violated sheriff's office policy with how the tasers were deployed.

In a statement to Local 12 News on Monday, Hamilton Co. Sheriff's Office spokesman Mike Robison said, "At this time we have not been served.  If and when we are, we will consult with our legal counsel as we do with all lawsuits."

At the time of Roell's death, Sheriff Jim Neil said he believed his deputies acted appropriately.

Roell was a husband and father to six children. He also had seven grandchildren and was retired from American Airlines.  Roell's family hopes the lawsuit will lead to changes.

"We hope through this to get better training when you get involved with mentally ill people," Gerhardstein said.

Gerhardstein said Roell's cause of death was listed as "excited delirium." It is state in which a person is agitated or aggressive. It has been listed as a cause of death in other instances in which tasers have been used.

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