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Oakland Personal Injury Lawyer / Blog / Personal Injury / City of Stockton Pays $6M to Settle Wrongful Death After Suspect is Asphyxiated

City of Stockton Pays $6M to Settle Wrongful Death After Suspect is Asphyxiated

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The City of Stockton has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the grieving family of a man who was asphyxiated by police officers during an attempted arrest. The 29-year-old died after being held face down by officers in 2020. The decedent’s mother said that nothing could replace her son, but that the settlement feels like an acknowledgment of wrongdoing by police officers. The Stockton police department did not respond to requests for comment concerning the case or the settlement.

According to the police report, the decedent had been acting strangely. He was wandering in and out of the store, asking the clerk if he could use his cell phone, and was in a state of mental health distress. At some point, the decedent called 911 himself and told the dispatcher that he needed a taxi.

When officers arrived, they directed the decedent to follow them outside and sit against a wall. Bodycam footage shows that the decedent complied with this request initially and answered the officers’ questions. However, at some point, the decedent stood up suddenly, and officers tackled him to the ground. The officers then proceeded to hold his face down for about 8 minutes, according to the bodycam footage. The suspect died during the arrest.

The lawsuit

The decedent’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Stockton, the two officers who responded to the call, and others alleging wrongful death, negligence, and the excessive use of force. The money will go to the decedent’s children and mother. A judge still needs to sign off on the settlement before the money is disbursed.

Experts have warned police officers for decades that holding a suspect face down for a prolonged period of time can cause their torso to compress and restrict their ability to breathe and pump blood. In 1995, the US Department of Justice issued a bulletin warning officers that face-down holds, known as prone restraint, can result in positional asphyxia (inability to breathe due to the position of the body). Research published in 2022 also revealed that holding suspects face down can result in cardiac arrest. The bulletin from the Department of Justice advises officers to turn suspects on their side or sit them up as soon as they are handcuffed to avoid positional asphyxia.

According to the lawsuit, the officers had the decedent handcuffed within 30 seconds but failed to turn him over after nearly 8 minutes. One of the officers placed his weight on the decedent’s back for around 4 minutes, preventing him from breathing.

Clearly, the conduct of these officers, in violation of the US Department of Justice bulletin, contributed to the untimely death of a 29-year-old man.

Talk to an Oakland, CA Personal Injury Lawyer Today 

The Oakland personal injury lawyers at Venardi Zurada represent the interests of plaintiffs in negligence lawsuits. If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another party, our attorneys can help you recover damages related to your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call our office today to learn more.

Source:

theguardian.com/us-news/2024/apr/11/california-wrongful-death-asphyxia-shayne-sutherland

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