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Blind Man Beaten By Police Files Claim

May 23, 1989 GMT

HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) _ A blind man beaten by police officers who thought his folding white cane was a martial arts weapon has filed a $200,000 claim against the city.

Harry Bruno, city risk manager, said the city probably will reject the claim filed Monday by David St. John.

″I couldn’t see the city agreeing to pay those amounts,″ he said.

St. John, 37, seeks half of the money for himself and the rest for an organization that helps the blind. ″A lot of blind people are upset over what happened,″ he said. ″I’m hoping that something good can come out of this.″

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Under the law, St. John can sue if the city rejects the claim.

St. John was beaten with a baton on May 11 after he resisted demands from officers to surrender his cane. He said the officers did not identify themselves and he thought he was being mugged. He was not seriously hurt.

Eric Ristrim, a training officer with the department for five years, and Marie Yin, a trainee with less than a year’s experience, said they thought the cane was a set of illegal nunchakus, two stout rods connected by a chain.

Also on Monday, about 20 officers, including Ristrim, got a 40-minute lesson on dealing with the blind.

″It brought to light that we need more sensitivity training toward problems that the blind have,″ training Officer Steve Corey said.

Mary Willows, an educational consultant for the National Federation of the Blind of California, helped conduct the course. The police request took her by surprise, she said.

″But I could tell by talking to them that they were really upset,″ she said. ″They’re just sick about it.″