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The family members of a Black man who died after police handcuffed him during a medical emergency have sued the city of Sacramento for wrongful death. Reginald Payne’s son, mother, and father are listed as the plaintiffs on the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in federal court.
According to the lawsuit, Harriet Jefferson called 911 on Feb. 25 to request emergency assistance for her son, Payne, a diabetic suffering from low blood sugar. Several fire department personnel arrived at the home in south Sacramento. In a video released by the department later in April, a firefighter can be heard telling a police officer that they called the police for help because the man was large and was swinging his legs and arms around. That officer called two more officers and can be heard saying the man is a “big boy.”
The video showed that when the officers entered the home, 48-year-old Payne was on the couch, moving erratically but not forcefully, making guttural noises in an apparent state of distress. The officers then placed Payne on his stomach and cuffed his hands behind his back so medics can provide treatment. At least three officers can be seen holding down Payne while he screamed and sobbed. About 14 minutes after the first officer arrived at the home, Payne stopped making noises and moving.
A medic then was seen giving him an injection into his shoulder, which a Sacramento Fire Department spokesman later said would help with his low blood sugar. Since the injection takes 25 to 45 minutes to start working, the medics put him on a gurney and transported him to the hospital, and they can be heard telling his mother on the video.
Once Payne was in the ambulance, fire personnel told the officers that he had stopped breathing, and medics began performing CPR on him. As the lawsuit states, he was taken to Sutter Medical Center, but never regained consciousness. Payne was declared dead March 3.
The lawsuit further alleges that the officers racially discriminated against the man, and seeks an injunction for the city to stop using “improper restraints” during medical emergencies. City spokesman Tim Swanson reportedly said that the city declined to comment on the lawsuit because it has not yet been served with it. The Police Department also declined comment because it does not comment on pending litigation, a spokesperson said. Meanwhile, the police investigation into the incident is still active.
According to Sacramento County Coroner Kim Gin, the cause of death was sudden cardiac arrest while being restrained in a prone position. The lawsuit alleges that the officers caused Payne’s death because they restrained him on his stomach with his arms behind his back — which can cause respiratory arrest and death from asphyxia or aspiration. The lawsuit further claims the officers engaged in racial discrimination against Payne, and their actions were based on his race or color.
The lawsuit seeks not only damages, but also an injunction to require police officers, firefighters, and paramedics to not use “improper restraints,” such as the prone position in emergency medical situations in the future. It also seeks for the city to require officers to attend racial bias training and create a mechanism to discipline officers who engage in racial discrimination.