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A lawsuit recently filed in federal court reportedly alleges police caused the wrongful death of a burglary suspect by improperly using a stun gun and excessive force after the man had surrendered. Rivera’s claim for damages was rejected by the City of Los Angeles on Dec. 10.
According to the federal suit filed on behalf of his mother and son, police officers Tased Daniel Rivera four times and kneeled on his back after he had surrendered and was on his stomach in a paved wash in an Arleta neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley last Aug. Officers had been originally called to the scene by a report that a man was trying to enter homes and they spotted Rivera, who jumped a fence and went down into the wash, authorities said.
The suit was brought against the city, Police Chief Michel Moore, and several officers, alleging wrongful death, unreasonable search and seizure, use of excessive force, assault, and civil rights violations. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages.
Video footage from a police body camera reportedly shows a half-dozen officers around Rivera in the wash. Officers struggled to handcuff Rivera, who seemed to be tensing his hands, and they repeatedly warned him to stop resisting. After some minutes, the officers proceeded with masking and hog-tying the man as he showed signs of difficulty breathing and respiratory distress and his legs hobbled, the suit says. Police then call for medical assistance.
The officers “kept the unresisting Rivera pushed down in a prone position, known to interfere with breathing, after he was handcuffed and hobbled,” according to the family’s attorney.
According to a Los Angeles County medical examiner’s report, Rivera became unconscious about eight minutes after paramedics arrived. He died at the scene. The lawsuit reportedly alleges that Rivera had surrendered, posed no threat, and had shown signs of struggling to breathe. And yet even after he lay motionless, officers didn’t perform first aid and delayed calling for medical help. It also contends that officers caused Rivera’s death by “piling on” him as he lay face down, tasing him four times, using their full body weight to restrain him, and causing “positional asphyxiation.”
Moreover, though the coroner’s report found no evidence that he suffered asphyxiation, it concluded the death was homicide — meaning there was human involvement. It also cited “law enforcement restraint maneuvers and methamphetamine use” as contributing factors.
“The city of Los Angeles and the LAPD have a history of encouraging and tolerating excessive, unnecessary and deadly force,” the family’s attorney reportedly said. “By failing to acknowledge their wrongdoings and appropriately investigate and impose discipline on the officers, the city of Los Angeles and the police department are essentially condoning a culture of brutal behavior.”