LOS ANGELES (CN) — Sons of a man who died in handcuffs while several Los Angeles police officers allegedly pushed or sat on him sued the city and LAPD, claiming the officers ignored the man’s repeated pleas that he was having a heart attack.
Henry Rene Medina Jr. was “sweating profusely and staggering” when LAPD officers found him on July 9 last year in response to a call about a mentally ill man “walking down the street, stating, ‘Help me, help me,'” according to the Tuesday lawsuit in Superior Court.
“As the LAPD officers got closer, decedent stated, ‘I’m going to pass out. I’m having a heart attack,'” the adult sons, Henry Rene Medina III and Anthony Medina say in the complaint. Their father asked for water, but rather than deliver it, or call an ambulance, LAPD and Los Angeles Port Police officers handcuffed him and lay him face down in the backseat of a police car “with at least three LAPD/LAPP officers on top of him.” Medina told them, “You’re killing me,” according to the lengthy complaint.
Eventually, 10 officers were on or around him when they noticed he “was discolored and no longer breathing,” so they got off him and called for an ambulance. An 11th officer arrived, who tried but failed to revive their father, the sons say. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Frank Mateljan III, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, said in an email that the office does not comment on pending litigation.
Ramin Kermani-Nejad, one of the Medinas’ attorneys, said his clients will ask for damages of “seven or eight figures” for the death of their 45-year-old father.
The Medinas ask for medical and funeral expenses and punitive damages from the LAPD, the Port Police, the city and L.A. County, for assault and battery, wrongful death, negligence, negligent hiring, pain and suffering and civil rights violations.
They say the police had no reason to believe their father “had committed or was about to commit a crime, or presented a reasonable threat of harm to the deputies or anyone else,” and the use of force was “deadly, unjustified, unreasonable, and excessive.”
Police nationwide have been sued for mistaking illness for drunkenness, drug use being “uncooperative” or “resisting arrest.” Diabetics suffering from blood low sugar have filed a dozen lawsuits against police departments since 2012, saying they were beaten or Tasered and arrested by officers who did not understand their medical condition.
Last year a federal jury in Sacramento awarded $125,000 to an elderly man who had slurred speech and balance problems caused by a previous stroke. The jury found two California Highway Patrol officers assaulted him after they pulled him over for driving 5 mph under the speed limit.
The Medinas say their father may have had mental problems. Their attorneys said they are investigating and have not yet looked into medical records.
Kermani-Nejad and the sons’ lead attorney, Hani Ganji, both with the Kermani LLP law firm, said the lawsuit’s description of the senior Medina’s death come largely from detailed police reports and interviews with their clients.
But Kerrnani-Nejad said the father certainly had a physical problem at the time of his arrest.
Ganji said the LAPD “has a history of using force on individuals, and this is another example of it.”
This time, he said, “It was 11-to-one.”
Published by Courthouse News Service.