LOS ANGELES (CN) — Los Angeles police handcuffed, beat, Tasered and suffocated a Latino man to death and erased a witness’s cellphone video of it, his mother and children claim in court.
Alex Jimenez died in South Los Angeles on April 13, 2015, when one or more unnamed LAPD officers dropped the handcuffed man to the ground and held him down with a knee to his neck or throat, his mother Maria Hernandez says in the April 19 federal lawsuit.
Hernandez’s son had six minor children. She says that “(d)espite repeated pleas” by her son and others, an officer kept his knee on her son’s throat, causing him “to vomit, turn blue, and ultimately die.”
The officers released pressure on Jimenez only when “they realized they were being recorded by a percipient witness,” according to the complaint.
Then the witness “was transported to an LAPD station where he was interviewed and the video was erased from his phone by LAPD officers,” Hernandez says.
She accuses 10 Doe officers of violating her son’s civil rights through unlawful arrest, excessive force and refusing medical treatment, and accused the city of inadequately training the officers and of maintaining “an unconstitutional custom, policy, and practice of using deadly force against unarmed civilians.” All defendants are accused of false arrest, battery, negligence and wrongful death.
The family seeks funeral expenses, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
Luis Carrillo of Pasadena, one of the family’s attorneys, said he does not know why police handcuffed and restrained Jimenez. He said two witnesses say they heard Jimenez yelling to his mother for help at about 2 a.m. that morning last year.
“Don’t let them take me. Don’t let them take me,” one witness repeated hearing, Carrillo told Courthouse News.
The attorney said he believes Jimenez was inside his home when police arrived.
“I’m trying to [find out] why the police were out there,” he said. The witnesses saw Jimenez handcuffed and taken to the ground.
When he died, Jimenez “was unarmed, was not committing any crime, had not threatened any one, was not about to harm anyone, and posed no imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to anyone,” according to the complaint.
Carrillo and co-counsel Dale Galipo of Woodland Hills filed a claim against the city in October, and the police commission denied it two weeks later without explanation.
Carrillo said the witness who first heard Jimenez’s cries came outside and began recording the incident on his cellphone or onto a USB thumb drive. Police took the drive, and when they returned it the video was gone, he said.
A Spanish-language L.A. TV station broadcast a news account of Jimenez’s death, including a few seconds of dark, fuzzy video apparently, of the incident.
Carrillo said he has not heard of any other cases accusing Los Angeles police of erasing a bystander’s video. But the claim has come up in other cities, including an incident last fall involving Indio police and one in which Chicago police were accused of erasing a Burger King restaurant’s surveillance video of the October 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald.
An LAPD representative said the department could not respond immediately to an inquiry about Jimenez’s death.
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Contributed by Don Debenedictis of Courthouse News.