Teen loses cochlear implant after being tased

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LAFOLLETTE, Tenn. (WATE) – A deaf teenager tased by a sheriff’s deputy because he couldn’t hear the officer’s command to stop.

To make matter’s worse, when he fell, his expensive cochlear implant was lost.

The teen was released when they realized there had been a mistake.

The young Campbell County man wears a cochlear implant. It’s a complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.

His device wasn’t working 11 days ago, following an unfortunate incident in which the young man couldn’t communicate with sheriff’s deputies who were responding to an emergency call in Lafollette.

19-year-old Brett Elkins is deaf and he is a graduate of the Tennessee School for the Deaf.

His mother showed us where Brett’s cochlear implant was located; the surgical scar is behind his right ear, about the size of a quarter.

But you don’t see the device, that’s because it was lost when Elkins was tased and fell to the ground incapacitated on October 11.

Elkins had gone to a friend’s house to use their phone to have his mother pick him up. As he was leaving the house, he didn’t know that Campbell County deputies had been called there for a domestic dispute between Brett’s friends.

Jamie Wilhoit, Elkins’ mother, saying, “He was walking, he felt a shock, his arms fell beside him, and he fell over. He assumed it was his cochlear, that it had malfunctioned, that was the first thing he thought. He was scared and crying. His cochlear implant had died, the batteries weren’t working, it wasn’t charged.”

Elkins’ implant was new, it came from TennCare. He said somehow it fell off after being tased.

He and his mother went back to look for it, but it hasn’t been found.

We received a copy of the sheriff’s report, and deputies didn’t know Brett was deaf when he failed to respond to their commands.

It states he was released once determined he had nothing to do with the domestic disturbance. Deputies also called an ambulance to check him out, however, there is no reference to the implant.

Connie Hull, Elkins’ grandmother, saying, “He got the cochlear three weeks ago. It was $8,000, they just don’t hand those out left and right.”

Brett showed us his back where several prongs from the taser gun left welts after suffering a five second shock, according to the incident report.

His mother telling us that Elkins would like an apology and for them to replace his cochlear implant.

A ranking officer from the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office called Elkins’ mother and said, “Sheriff Goins has talked to with our insurance provider and they are willing to pay for Brett’s implant.”

Elkins and his mother were overwhelmed.

“Wow! Oh my God, oh, they cared, they cared.”

Jamie Wilhoit – Elkins’ mother

It will take a few weeks before Elkins’ fitted with a new cochlear device.

Sheriff Robbie Goins telling us that domestic violence calls are the most danger his deputies face, and they have to make split second judgement calls with the information they have during the situation.

He also said his deputies acted reasonably under the circumstances when they first confronted Elkins. Sheriff Goins is pleased to learn that Elkins and his family are happy with the resolution.

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