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A Connecticut police department is being sued over the death of a Hispanic man in police custody


EAST HARTFORD, Connecticut — Connecticut police officers used excessive and racially discriminatory force on a Hispanic man who died shortly after he was beaten and shocked with a stun gun for more than 20 seconds while in police custody, a federal lawsuit alleges.

The brother of the man, Jose Maldonado, filed the lawsuit Feb. 2 saying that East Hartford officers violated Maldonado's constitutional rights and used force that killed him in April 2014.

The lawsuit also says the death is part of a discriminatory pattern of deadly police violence against blacks and Hispanics nationwide. It seeks at least $15 million in damages.

East Hartford police officials did not immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday. The lawsuit was first reported by the Journal Inquirer.

Police previously said Maldonado became combative at the police department after being arrested for punching out a car window while intoxicated during a dispute with other people. The lawsuit alleges officers beat Maldonado in a jail cell and shot him with a stun gun in the chest.

Maldonado, 22, was pronounced dead at a hospital less than an hour later. The medical examiner's office determined he died of "cardiac arrhythmia following precordial electric shock and blunt injury to the head" and ruled his death a homicide.

State police are investigating Maldonado's death and haven't charged anyone.

The lawsuit names officers Jason Kaplan and Jason Cohen, Sgt. James Lis, Chief Scott Sansom and the town of East Hartford. Kaplan fired the stun gun at Maldonado, the lawsuit says.

Messages seeking comment were left for Kaplan, Cohen, Lis and Sansom on Wednesday.

The lawsuit says 11 of the 17 people who died since 2005 after police in Connecticut shot them with stun guns were black or Hispanic.

Last year, Connecticut became the first state to require all police departments to fill out detailed reports for every time officers fired, or threatened to fire, their stun guns. Data from 2015 show Connecticut officers who pulled out their stun guns fired them 60 percent of the time in confrontations involving whites, 80 percent of the time in those involving blacks and 69 percent of the time in those involving Hispanics.

State and police officials warned against making any conclusions about the data until a full analysis is completed within the coming weeks.

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