Body camera shows man yelled ‘I can’t breathe’ before death
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The family of a 51-year-old man who screamed 20 times that police were killing him last week settled a wrongful-death lawsuit with the city of Oakland.
Hernan Jaramillo also repeatedly wailed that he couldn’t breathe before he died on July 8, 2013, The Oakland Tribune reported (http://bayareane.ws/1Sk18dl) Wednesday.
Face-down with police pressing him to the sidewalk, Jaramillo wailed “They’re killing me!” repeatedly in a 4-minute stretch.
“I can’t breathe,” he moaned again and again.
As the minutes passed, the cries grew softer until Jaramillo fell silent.
The refrains were caught on a police body-camera video and obtained by the newspaper
The police department did not respond to questions about the incident. Last week, Oakland settled a wrongful-death lawsuit stemming from the case for $450,000. The city attorney’s office referred questions about the settlement to the City Council.
Police were originally with Jaramillo because his sister had called officers reporting that an intruder was trying to kill her brother.
When officers arrived, they found Jaramillo in a bedroom, and no one else beside his sister present. When Jaramillo didn’t obey commands to let them in, they handcuffed him, the newspaper reported.
Officers detained him because Jaramillo had blocked their efforts to investigate the incident and appeared to be having a mental health episode, the city said.
Jaramillo refused commands and resisted multiple times when police attempted to put him in the squad car. Jaramillo was never a criminal suspect, and he had no criminal record in Alameda County, the newspaper reported.
The video also shows officers ignoring Jaramillo’s pleas for help and continuing to restrain him, a tactic associated with in-custody deaths and sharply criticized after the 2014 death of Eric Garner in New York. Garner’s family settled a lawsuit last year for $5.9 million.
In his deposition, Officer Ira Anderson said that while attempting to force Jaramillo into the car, he suddenly saw the man’s hands were no longer handcuffed behind his back but out in front.
“I grabbed him by the shirt,” Anderson said. “I brought him away from the car … did a leg sweep and put him on the sidewalk.”
Once Jaramillo hit the asphalt, the exact manner and length of restraint is unclear.
Officers said they held Jaramillo down by his arms and wrists. The three officers named in the complaint were Anderson, Carlos Navarro and Steven Stout.
Three witnesses said they saw an officer pressing a knee into Jaramillo’s back, the newspaper reported.
An autopsy found the cause of death to be multiple drug intoxication associated with physical exertion.
Attorney John Burris, who represented Jaramillo’s relatives in the lawsuit, said that an independent pathologist rejected the drug theory.
The Alameda County District Attorney does not investigate in-custody deaths that don’t involve shootings.