Disturbing video shows struggle before man's death in LAPD custody

Saturday, August 20, 2016
Disturbing video shows struggle before man's death in LAPD custody
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A disturbing video shows up to six LAPD officers restraining a man and placing a chokehold on him that ultimately contributed to his death, leading to a $2.85 million lawsuit settlement.

MARINA DEL REY, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Disturbing video has come to light on the death of a man who was in Los Angeles police custody.

The video was obtained by the nonprofit investigative journalism group ProPublica after the city agreed to pay the man's family $2.85 million to settle a wrongful death claim.

The footage shows Vachel Howard, 56, handcuffed to a bench at the Los Angeles Police Department's 77th Street station in June 2012 after he was arrested for allegedly driving while intoxicated.

He appears agitated and is then released from the shackles. Officers testified later that he became violent and combative. One of the officers said Howard tried to bite him and officers later told the Board of Police Commissioners they feared for their lives.

Then the video shows a wrestling match between Howard and multiple officers, with several of them getting on top of him. At the height of it, six officers are involved and Howard was placed in a chokehold and restrained.

Afterward, he lay motionless for four minutes as officers stood around him.

A nurse then arrived to pump his chest, but he later died at a hospital.

The coroner later listed three contributing causes of death - cocaine intoxication, heart disease and a chokehold.

The officer who applied the chokehold was later suspended for 22 days.

A wrongful death suit was filed by Howard's family and after two years of legal wrangling the city agreed in October 2015 to settle for $2.85 million.

"When we looked at the video, we were appalled - because Mr. Howard, while he was agitated, posed no threat to those officers - especially when there's six officers on top of him," said James DeSimone, attorney for Howard's family. "The use of potentially deadly force against him was unjustified."

The LAPD and the City Attorney's Office declined comment.