A federal lawsuit was filed this week alleging that excessive use of force and indifference by Stamford police resulted in the death of a mentally ill 23-year-old man in 2019.
Steven Barrier’s family, their lawyer and the Connecticut Legal Rights Project said the city’s policies led to indifference to Barrier’s need for treatment.
In police body camera video released by the Stamford state’s attorney, some of Barrier's last words can be heard as he tells police he can’t get up and is too tired to walk while officers shout at him. He died that night in police custody.
Barrier’s mother, Valerie Jaddo, spoke out during a news conference Monday to announce the lawsuit.
“I told them that my son needed urgent psychiatric help, but the police handcuffed my son and dragged him down a steep hill in the pouring rain,” said Jaddo.
She said the video also shows police laughing at her son shortly before he died on the jail floor the night of his birthday.
Last year the state’s attorney’s office released a report on the incident and determined Barrier died of a heart attack brought on by coronary artery disease. His mother says no help was given when her son was in obvious distress.
“This mistreatment of a mentally ill patient has to stop,” said Jaddo. “In honor of my son and everyone the police have harmed in this inhumane way, we need to find a better way.”
On the night of the incident, police had been called by Barrier’s sister, who said her brother had assaulted her. According to the complaint, Barrier had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Jaddo and Alan Fuchsberg, the lawyer for Barrier’s estate, say Stamford police could have prevented his death by taking Barrier to the hospital.
“The police department failed to call mental health team services, even EMS, at the outset to escalate rather than de-escalate the situation,” said Fuchsberg.
The lawsuit was filed in partnership with the Connecticut Legal Rights Project. The complaint seeks monetary and injunctive relief, requiring the police department to modernize its policies on handling mentally ill suspects. It also calls for a 24/7 mental health response team.
Kathryn Emmett of Stamford’s legal department said she could not comment on any pending litigation against the city.