Los Angeles police officers killed an unarmed man inside a city jail in 2012, claiming he was “violent and combative,” which required several cops to pounce on him, including one who placed him in a chokehold until he stopped breathing.
The incident led to the city of Los Angeles paying a $2.85 million settlement to the family of Rachel Howard in 2015, the 56-year-old man who had been arrested for driving while intoxicated before he was killed.
The cop who placed the illegal chokehold on him, Juan Romero, was suspended for 22 days after an internal investigation determined he violated policy, but otherwise was only trying to protect himself and other officers from an uncontrollable man who was making them fear for their lives.
But the videos of his death was not released until this week after a months-long investigation by ProPublica.
Not surprisingly, what can be seen on the videos does not match with what is detailed in the 18-page investigative report, which can be read here.
Incidentally, the struggle begins off camera. Or at least off the cameras that recorded the two videos obtained by ProPublica, which have been edited down into one video below, but can also be seen in their entirety here and here.
Romero is identified as “Detention Officer A” in the following excerpt from the report.
Detention Officer A believed the officers’ lives were in danger due to the Subject’s aggressive behavior and that he needed to apply a modified upper-body control hold to subdue the Subject.
Detention Officer A placed his right arm around the Subject’s neck, with his right bicep pressed into the right side of the Subject’s neck, and his right forearm pressed into the left side of the Subject’s neck. Detention Officer A cupped his left hand over his right wrist, and applied downward pressure with his bodyweight as the Subject tried to push off the floor with his right hand.
A coroner’s report listed three contributing causes of death: cocaine intoxication, heart disease and the chokehold, which is what ultimately killed him because without it, he would not have died at that very moment.
The investigative report claims that Romero only applied the chokehold for five seconds, but that is impossible to determine as Howard is under a pile of cops.
But what the video does show is the officers laughing amongst themselves after they step off Howard, who is laying motionless on the floor with his hands cuffed behind his back.