A 66-year-old man who was accompanying a friend to the hospital says a Lewes police officer used unnecessary force when he threw him to the floor inside Beebe Healthcare’s Emergency Department Jan. 25.
Robaire G. Lizama suffered a gash over his right eyebrow and said he has been experiencing severe pain in his left arm, back and groin since the incident.
“I didn’t deserve this,” he said during an interview Jan. 30. “I was thrown around like a rag doll.”
Lizama admits he may have been hysterical leading up to the encounter. He said he had just escorted a friend experiencing chest pains to the hospital from the BP gas station at Five Points. Beebe staff took his friend back to a room, and he accompanied her. He said a nurse asked him to leave the room, so he took a seat in the hallway. He says the nurse then came out and told him he had to wait in the waiting room. As he started making his way to the waiting room, a security guard and Lewes police officer Tyrone Woodyard began to follow him, he said. Lizama says he turned around to ask what direction to go and was immediately thrown to the ground.
The police report filed by Woodyard states Lizama lunged toward him in an aggressive manner. The report also says Lizama resisted arrest by continually pulling his left arm away.
“He kept yelling ‘Stop resisting arrest,’” Lizama said. “I was like, ‘I’m getting arrested?’”
Lizama was treated for his injuries at Beebe, then taken to the police department, where he was charged with resisting arrest, menacing and disorderly conduct. He was fingerprinted and arraigned via video. Judge John J. Adams ordered Lizama to stay away from Beebe Healthcare.
Upon release on his own recognizance, Lizama went home to rest briefly before going to Bayhealth Milford Memorial for further treatment. He says he’s been prescribed physical therapy for his injuries. In addition, he said, he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, an abnormal accumulation of liquid within the brain, a condition he says he did not have prior to the incident. He said a doctor has told him it’s common among older adults.
Lizama questions the professionalism of officer Woodyard. In addition to excessive force, Lizama said, Woodyard incorrectly applied handcuffs, misidentified his race on the police report, listing him as white when he is Pacific Islander, and he misspelled his first name.
Lewes Police Chief Tom Spell said he could not comment on the incident; however, he said, complaints against his officers are taken seriously.
“We honor every citizen complaint and treat them as a serious allegation,” he said. “We will conduct a full investigation including an interview with the complainant and interviews with witnesses. We will compare the actions taken with our force policy.”
If the complaint is determined to be founded, Spell said, it will be handled internally.
According to Title 11 of Delaware code, use of force in law enforcement is justifiable when the officer believes such force is immediately necessary. The guideline is echoed in the department’s policy.
Lizama will appear in Sussex County Court of Common Pleas in Georgetown Monday, Feb. 27.