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Local diabetic severely injured during scuffle with police
SAN ANTONIO -- San Antonio has twice the number of people living with diabetes than the national average.
That's why we thought it was important to bring you the story of a local diabetic who was severely injured during a scuffle with police.
We want to be very transparent here, the gentleman happens to be a family member of News 4 San Antonio's Delaine Mathieu.
For that reason she has not been involved in our coverage or investigation of the incident.
News 4 Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila has the police video of what happened - and why diabetes plays an important role.
70-year old Thomas Mathieu doesn't fully remember the incident that sent him to the hospital with injuries to his face, head and arms, as well as three broken ribs. When we interviewed him in mid-January, Mathieu had also developed a serious case of pneumonia.
"None of it adds up because I am, basically a gentle person," he said.
News 4 San Antonio obtained police dash cam video from January 13th of this year.
Two SAPD officers responded to the Loop 410 Frontage Road, where it meets Evers Road.
That's where Thomas Mathieu had stopped his car in the turn lane, because he felt he was about to have a low blood sugar episode. He says he didn't want to put others in danger.
"I don't know what happened from there on," said Thomas Mathieu. "I woke up with my face in the ground."
The officers arrived to find Mathieu slumped over the steering wheel, and told him three times to step out of the vehicle.
Mathieu, who says he was not conscious at this point, refused to get out of the car and a struggle began.
The officer punched Mathieu several times to get him to comply.
In the officer's report, he wrote that he struck Mathieu because he thought he was reaching for the car shifter to drive off.
The officer said he feared the car might injure him or hit other vehicles, so he continued to punch Mathieu in the head.
After about 30 seconds, the two officers pulled Mathieu out onto the roadway. But the struggle continued as they try to turn him over.
During the incident, Mathieu can be heard, crying out as officers threatened to tase him.
The officers finally gain control over Mathieu, just out of view of the camera, and it's clear they believe they are dealing with a person who is under the influence of alcohol.
Here is the exchange that then ensued between the officer and Mathieu:
Officer: Sir, how much have you had to drink tonight?
Officer: What's going on with you today?
Officer: Why were you sleeping behind the wheel, sir? And when we asked you to get out you didn't get out. Why?
It's not until about one minute later -- a full five minutes after police arrived. that someone asked Mathieu if he was a diabetic.
Mathieu and his family say police should be trained to ask questions first to determine if there's a medical emergency.
"I know officers are trained how to deal with diabetic situations but apparently there was no recognition of that situation here," said Mathieu.
When asked about the incident, SAPD Chief Bill McManus says the case was investigated by internal affairs and sent to the advisory action board made up of seven officers and seven civilians. They determined excessive force was not used and cleared the officers.
McManus says officers do receive extensive training on how to recognize a diabetic episode, but they didn't have a chance to use it in this case because the first priority was getting Mathieu out of the driver's seat.
The American Diabetes Association has been trying to get police departments around the nation to improve officer training.
After Philadelphia police were hit with a class action lawsuit, the department produced a video teaching officers how to properly deal with diabetics.
News 4 San Antonio is always looking out for you. If there's an issue you think they need to investigate, call our Troubleshooters at 476-1070. You can also email us at Troubleshooters@news4.com.