A 77-year-old Korean War veteran with Alzheimer’s disease who wandered away from the Montana Veterans Home in Columbia Falls was shocked by police with a stun gun, fell face-first on pavement and died in a hospital about three weeks later, a lawsuit filed by the man’s granddaughter charges.

According to the complaint filed April 5 in District Court in Helena, Stanley L. “Stan” Downen was admitted to the state-run home on May 31, 2012, “with a history of behavioral issues and advanced dementia resulting from severe progressive Alzheimer’s disease.”

The next day, he wandered off. Staff members tried to bring him back, but “instead agitated Stanley and escalated the situation,” the lawsuit charges.

The staff called 911 and Columbia Falls police responded, according to the complaint. When Downen still refused to cooperate, an officer stunned him with a stun gun and he fell face-first into the pavement and struck his head, according to the complaint.

“An ambulance arrived … to find Stanley handcuffed and lying face down in the middle of the street,” the complaint says. “Care providers noted several abrasions to Stanley’s hands and forehead, and extensive injuries over his left eye with swelling and an abrasion on his scalp.”

He was placed in a cervical collar and on a backboard before being taken to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, according to the complaints.

“Nursing staff from the Montana Veteran’s Home called to inform Stanley’s family that he had tripped and fallen while running, and that he was taken to the hospital,” the complaint says. “It was not until two days later that Stanley’s family discovered Stanley had been tased by the police.”

He died on June 24, 2012, due to injuries from the fall, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit was filed by Downen’s granddaughter, Tamara Downen, of Columbia Falls, representing his estate.

The suit alleges negligence and wrongful death by the nursing home, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Columbia Falls Police Department. It also charged the home with medical and nursing malpractice and accuses the police of assault and battery.

It demands unspecified damages, including punitive damages against the police department.

A DPHHS spokesman said the department would not comment on ongoing litigation. An attorney representing Columbia Falls said the city had not been served with the suit and declined immediate comment.

An attorney for Downen with the Missoula firm Milodragovich, Dale and Steinbrenner also said he could not comment on ongoing litigation.

Stan Downen was born in Westby in 1934, and his family moved to Browning, then Coram and then Columbia Falls, according to his obituary in the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell.

He served in active duty in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War on the USS Newport News, according to the obituary,

He was an ironworker for nearly 30 years, working for a time in South Africa and also worked at the Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. until his retirement in 1998, according to the obituary.

He was also a charter member of the North Valley Search and Rescue team and, along with other iron-workers, built several playgrounds in the Flathead Valley, according to the obituary.

(54) comments

ScottAftem
ScottAftem

Justice for Stan!! Demand it.

Hakon Montag
Hakon Montag

What we see here is SOP (standard operating procedure) in practice.

The Police respond to an 'incident'.

SOP requires them to subdue the perp/supsect/SKEL - short for skeleton as continually used on NYPD Blues.

SOP does not differentiate between children/teens/adults/seniors

SOP does not require the use of, in fact denies the use of...COMMON SENSE

That is why these things have happened, and will continue to happen at the hands of those who are paid by us...to PROTECT us

Welcome to Police State Amerika...you asked for it.

glacierlover
glacierlover

The article does not contain both sides of the story. Under healthcare laws, what is dicussed between the nursing home and the hospital goes on record. So, with that being said, it would make no sense for the facility to lie to the family. When, they would be told otherwise from the hospital. We do not know if the resident involved had a history with behavior issues, and we do not know if the police department had incidents with him in the past. We are going on what the plaintiff is saying, and have no information from the defendents. Words get twisted to make a good story, and people jump the gun before they know all the facts.

glacierlover
glacierlover

Everyone seems so quick to condemn both the facility and the police department without knowing all the facts and without knowing both sides of the story. What is printed in the newspaper, isn't always accurate and does not contain all the facts. This article is one-sided. While the articles accuses the facility of lieing to the family, it isn't true. It would make no sense for the facility to do that, due to the fact that any conversations that took place between the facility, the police department, and the hospital are documented. Why lie to the family, when they would find out what happened via the hospital. As more information and facts are brought to light on this case, some may realize they misjudged and jumped the gun a little too early. Should he have been tazed? Who are we to say? Were we there? Did we see the event take place? He may have been 77, but even at that age, individuals with Alzheimers Disease can become highly agitated.

Phil_Walker
Phil_Walker

A couple things come to mind here. Either we have an over zealous officer who needs to find another job, or an officer that needs some training. Either way the department is on the hook here. I just can't imagine an elderly man going toe to toe with a police officer to the point where he needs to be tazed.

COMMON SENSE
COMMON SENSE

I'm a vet myself and I've got nothing but respect for police officers, but in this case I've got to wonder about the decision this officer made, lighting up a 77 year old mentally disturbed vet, causing him to hit the pavement in such a manner? I don't question that he needed to be restrained, but would it have not been more sensible to call for backup and then tackle the guy? Yes there might have been a risk in doing so of injury to the officer(s), but I think a young cop can take a fist in the face and recover from it a lot better then a senior citizen being tased & tasting his own blood & concrete from having his head bounced off of it! When I get to be that old I sure hope I get more respect & consideration should I ever find myself in a similar situation. I think there should be an immediate investigation by an outside agency and the officer involved duly removed from service and prosecuted. My sympathies to the family, my respects to my fallen comrade.

montana_rafter
montana_rafter

The Columbia Falls PD has a history police brutality. Hopefully the granddaughter's attorney will bring this to light.

Bones
Bones

Talk about jumping to conclusions..

The complaint alleges he died due to injuries from his fall. What does the coroner's office say?

Hakon Montag
Hakon Montag

Yes...a fall that was caused by what?

Oh yeah...being TAZZED.

Bones
Bones

Tazzing is pretty hip.

The complaint alleges...it is not the same as the coroner confirms. Did he die because of his fall? Was that confirmed by a doctor?

Read deeply, Hakon.

Hakon Montag
Hakon Montag

What made him fall? Or are you too knowledgeable to actually figure that one out?

Hakon Montag
Hakon Montag

So then your claim is what?

He died of OLD AGE?

Bones
Bones

You really seem to be struggling with this one.

Just because the complaint claims he died due to injuries from his fall doesn't actually mean he died due to injuries from his fall. That needs to be confirmed by a medical professional, which is not you or the man's granddaughter.

Ya, he might have died from old age, and the proximity to the tazing might have been coincidence. Get some proof before you start tying the noose around people's necks.

Hakon Montag
Hakon Montag

Struggling?

Indeed.

You now assert that he could have died due to old age...

and the incident of his tasing is simply coincidental

You are a fool.

Bones
Bones

No, Hakon, I just like evidence.

Similar case - we should have just strung up Jordan Johnson before a trial. The allegation was sufficient to prosecute him.

Right? That's what you're suggesting here.

Hakon Montag
Hakon Montag

There you go with a patented attempt at a strawman argument.

This isn't about a young healthy football player, who didn't die from injuries...oops supposed injuries.

This is about a 77 year old man and his dementia and the inability of people like you to be able to see that there is a better way to SUBDUE a 77 year old man with dementia than subjecting him to being TASED...which more than likely is why he fell...which is where his injuries came from...which is more than likely why he died...

Rather than your lame attempt to claim...he's old.

Yea...he's old...WHY THE POLICE BRUTALITY?

Tase him...HANDCUFF him...follow the rule book to a tea...he died in the hospital.

I hope to heck it happens to you when you turn 77.

Bones
Bones

Not a straw man. The the premise is the same - you have an allegation, and you need proof before you declare someone guilty. Really simple.

You have not once seen me defend the actions of the police officers. Stay on topic.

Hakon Montag
Hakon Montag

Ah...I see your problem.

It's okay for you to have an opinion.

It's not okay for someone else to have an opinion, since that then goes against your opinion...and declares someone guilty.

Stay on topic yourself. I have done nothing but declare my opinion. I am not Judge, jury and executioner.

For you to pretend that I am simply because I have an opinion...is rather pointless. It is also self argumentative. Since you bring up a conclusion based upon your presumption...both of which are false.

Bones
Bones

Hakon,

You're claiming that he died due to police brutality. That is an opinion.

I'm claiming the evidence isn't in yet, and so it's better to withhold judgement.

You can have an opinion all you want, but it's worth nothing if it's not substantiated by the facts.

Someone your age should have a little wisdom and restraint, though maybe I'm just being idealistic.

Bob Marshall
Bob Marshall

The most astonishing thing in this debacle is that they handcuffed him after he fell, and then left him lying on the sidewalk instead of rendering first aid. This cop should be charged with manslaughter, at the very least.

Hakon Montag
Hakon Montag

SOP...

GaryTinkSanders
GaryTinkSanders

We should not be reading an article like this at all, my grandfather had dementia so I know there can be difficulties but I also know that when this call went out the 911 dispatcher more than likely informed the officers of this mans condition and where he had walked away from so they should have known beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was not threatening. How many lessons must be learned by after thoughts? It seems non lethal force (tazers, bean bag guns and rubber bullets) has become the new choice in confrontation rather than trying to calm an agitated man that was just put into a new and unknown environment a day before he walked out. May Stanley L. “Stan” Downen rest in peace and know that you are a hero and if we had the power to undo the injustice that has been cast upon you we certainly would and with hopes that an incident like this never happens again.

tired of spin
tired of spin

Thank God they did not call in K9 unit. But this is a nation where mean and tough, are becoming more of a standard each day, far from a USA that once actually felt "A nation or person is measured by how it treats it's least fortunate".

One more time a "vet home, agency, etc" responsible for the care of vets is not doing it's job, Where were the "Vet Home people" when cops showed up, why did they not assist cops, why did cop use tazer, why did Vet Home lie, who there was involved.
I shall hope those on scene charged to maximum law allows, the others involved in any manner, cops or home, fired with no chance of rehire. Time, for one time to make it known to all that there is ZERO tolerance for any involved..
NOTE Just because it was a vet does not make cops actions seem worse. Across USA there seems to be a increase in "we want tough cops" as long, of course, as long as we think it is only 'Bad guys" who will take brunt of assaults. Time to remember "the less fortunate" as that saying goes, as for now we do not want to ask, slightly paraphrasing, "For whom the Tazer, tazes, as next could be you". Jail and fire, not delay and cover up, fed up with this sort of thing and "but it is legal". How many on scene when the cop had to"Tazer to control a senior", same thing happened to senior women in TX not far back.

glacierlover
glacierlover

The Vet's Home "people" were with the resident. The article contains only the information needed to sell a good story. If they had been able to calm him down, they would not have needed to call in for help. The Vet's Home is a great facility, and there are many people and family members who would agree with this comment. Due to this incident, and people not knowing all the information and facts, you are labeling it a disaster zone. Get the facts!

Hakon Montag
Hakon Montag

Gee...we agree. I'm not all that surprised (actually)

Leadfoot
Leadfoot

MT LEADFOOT:
This isn't one of those cases where the public jumps to judgment before the facts are known: a 77 y/o Vet with Alzheimer's, unarmed, and obviously confused. Also, the nursing home HAD to have called the police when he ran off. They would have given the police a thumbnail sketch about the patient's medical history. If they didn't miss him, that is negligence, in itself. What will be interesting is determining when those injuries occurred...before or after the police-assault. To be sure that the nursing home and the entire Police dept. are diligently in CYA mode. The truth will never be disclosed. If there was more than one police officer involved and a Taser was used on a 77 y/o with known cardiovascular issues, as all 77 y/o's have, they had better be thinking SETTLEMENT. Anyone using a Taser had better have received specialized training in who is susceptible to cardiac injury and death. Tasering someone very elderly (who is unarmed) because he/she is not "cooperative" is not to be tolerated. Good luck to the granddaughter.

glacierlover
glacierlover

Where in the article does it say he was unarmed? Get all the facts before making a judgement call. The veteran had a history of violence with his family and with the police department.

Hakon Montag
Hakon Montag

You're an idiot...excuse my French. The old man was not armed, and your presumption that he was is simply ignorance and an attempt to 'justify' police brutality.

twomedicine
twomedicine

The Alzheimer wing at the home is a lock down unit therefore Stan would have had to have been let out by Staff. It is not the first time that this type of poor judgement has occurred at the Home. My Mother's leg was broken at the home while supposedly taking a bath under supervision as she was unable to walk. It is certainly not the first time the Columbia Falls Police Dept has exercised poor judgement. This should not ever reach a courtroom as it should be settled immediately without dragging the family through any further grief. It is my hope that all responsible parties are punished. The officer who caused this should be held personally responsible fined and terminated as well as the staff members at the home. The fact that the Staff lied to the family stating that Stan had tripped and fallen while running is ridiculous and shows the cover up clearly. Where has personal responsibity and integrity gone? Pay the family for their loss.

JOHN57
JOHN57

good for you i hope you get these cops that like do it to people they talk about when they pit some ones car they high 5 each other they off on it i hope you get all that uoi could and make should that you get this cop that did it do not let him get off on it good luck sorry to here that but it goes on all the time with these cops tha cops with the dogs like see them bite people go get them

old farmer
old farmer

This really shocks me. I have personally visited the Columbia falls Vet home twice, and I found it the finest of it's kind. I am part of a Veteran support group and I have highly recommended this facility to vets in the past. I want some answers. It sounds to me like the main problem is a trigger happy cop. I see small women cops carrying big guns and big stun guns. Was this the problem? As for assuming a 77 year old is helpless insults me, I'm nearly that old myself but I'm not old and helpless. May gods peace be with the family. Thank you sir for your service to our country.

Chuck Feney
Chuck Feney

Execution By Gutless Cop Electrocution

Some gutless cop in Columbia Falls
Who apparently doesn't have balls
Stunned a feeble old guy
And caused him to die
In an example of a policy that galls.
_____
C.U.F.

Been There
Been There

To say that I was shocked at the treatment of this man by the police is an understatement. He deserves a full military burial with honor for serving his country. Why would any police officer think it would be beneficial to tazer a senior citizen, especially one that was sick? I am becoming more afraid of the police than I am of the criminals out there. I am also a senior citizen.

Roger
Roger

I usually support the police, but in this case it wasn't necessary to use a taser on the unarmed 77-year-old suffering from Alzheimer's. And why couldn't the staff bring the man back when they caught him trying to wander off? They couldn't handle a 77-year-old man? He must have been one tough old guy, or they must be some of the weakest, most timid people around.

cwp9908
cwp9908

To "Protect & Serve" yeah, right! This is how they treat a veteran who's also elderly and ill? I blame both the nursing home staff, who should have had proper training to deal with this type of issue, and the cops, who are too darn lazy to use their brains instead of their tasers.

lakeguy406
lakeguy406

What is sad. This man served our country in an honorable way. To die such an in honorable death, is sad. The Montana Veterans Home should be shut down for lies to the family. The Columbia Falls police are cowards. Montanan's need to know about these type of low lifers, so we may weed them out. Being ashamed is not enough. We want you gone......

frazzle
frazzle

good job natzi thugs

james11
james11

Please post the name of the officer that used his best judgement and did this to a sick and helpless old man. The citizens deserve to know, especially when it involves an officer!!!

ScottAftem
ScottAftem

The Missoulian must demand this officer's name using FOIA!

hellgatenights
hellgatenights

So......we have a veteran here, served his country and performed "Man's work" for 30 years ans some fat faced public parasite shoots him with a taser and leaves him in the street to die?

How can this be?

It can......and is. We have seen three unarmed people shot by police in the last three months in Montana, one of theme here in Missoula. These people are not fit to wear a badge, but they don't want to get a real job where you have to perform for a living.......so they get in line and get a parasite job.

The man who shot the vet should be tried for negligent homicide right after he is fired.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

Patients with dementia can be a handful but not at that age usually. Sometimes we could get a doctors order for a mild sedative to help when they were irritated or violent which was pretty rare. I did not know we could have called the police department and had a ptient tased if we wanted...sheesh... Hard enough for the family to watch their loved one losing their awareness etc due to a disease...lets let him out because we aren't watching him and let the cops tase him....Hope this lawsuit works out for you family members and while it will not bring him back as one ignorant comment here points out..at least it may serve as a warning to other caregivers and law enforcement to pay attention and treat a patient with dignity.

Nollie315
Nollie315

This is ridiculous... what's really sad about this whole thing, ,is that money won't bring him back, even if they win the suit. Also, arguably worse, is the fact that if the police dept is found guilty, then I would feel safe to bet that nothing will come to the officer who did the tazing or any of the others who were directly responsible for the way these events went down. If remarkably, in my mind, some kind of discipline is brought to him, her or them then I imagine it will be minimal

BBQDad
BBQDad

I am going to channel Dirty Harry: "If you aren't man enough to handle an aging Veteran whose mind bears the scars of Time with the consideration and respect he deserves, call for back-up---or turn in your badge."

zootown
zootown

Seems to me our police officers are so out of condition they are relying on tasers and dogs way too often. Time to make some changes or send them back to school to be re-trained. They are suppose to protect the people not abuse them.

dsrobins
dsrobins

It sure sounds like the incompetent Columbia Falls police department murdered this poor, sick old veteran. Charges need to be brought and a huge lawsuit filed.

Immort
Immort

A police officer cant subdue an almost 80 year old man but resorts to stunning him instead? Are you kidding me? I hope the family wins big in this one, no reason what so ever that an officer cant subdue an old feeble man.

NewMontanaMan
NewMontanaMan

Seventy-seven years old and the police could not subdue him without violence and hand-cuffs? This is a travesty and every police officer involved should be fired and charged with manslaughter as well as department management cashiered as well. I know this nursing home well and these veterans could no hurt a flea. Their stun-guns should be ripped out of their hands as they are not men enough to be entrusted with them.

GaryEG
GaryEG

Amen bother, amen.

GaryEG
GaryEG

Just another example of law enforcement officers thinking they are above the law.

Mr C
Mr C

Sad story. I hope the officers involved are punished. Now they zap old people? Cowardly!

in the pines
in the pines

If even a portion of the Complaint is true, the nursing home, over zealous police, and DPHHS should not litigate, they should accept responsibility and at least try to make things right by paying a great deal of money. As the facts are reported in this story, the way the nursing home treated this man is pure (profanity). I pray I don't ever need that kind of "care". And for police to taser a 77 year old with dementia? That is over the top. Why couldn't a couple of officers just reached out and held him, a bear hug or something? And then why lie about it? Why wasn't the granddaughter called at the very beginning of this tragedy? Wow. And we all want our kids, our neighbors, etc., to accept responsibility when they make a mistake? and strive to say I made a mistake when I really did? They ought to accept their responsibility.

james
james

these silly gadgets need to be banned. how many people have died because of taser use? these cops couldn't handle an old man any other way? this is rediculous. more in your face police brutality. let these cops be fired from their jobs & put a stop to these things. being so trigger happy is not protecting & serving.

Alan Johnson
Alan Johnson

These things were touted as a humane way police could opt to use "non-lethal" force. But it appears from this case that is being as the first choice. It is sometimes lethal force that is used when lesser force would have sufficed.

Andy B Hamond
Andy B Hamond

If tasers are outlawed, only outlaws will have tasers.

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