Family of LA grandfather who died in police custody following chokehold receive $3 million

The city of Los Angeles is set to pay almost $3million to the family of a grandfather who died in police custody after a jail guard placed him in a chokehold, according to court documents.

Vachel Howard, 56, was lying unarmed on the floor surrounded by five officers when detention officer Juan Romero restrained him by gripping his neck at the Los Angeles Police Department jail on 77th Street.

Video surveillance footage which captured the incident on June 4 in 2012 is key evidence in the federal lawsuit filed by Howard’s family.

The clip is subject to an order prohibiting its release, but its contents are detailed in court papers seen by CNN.

Howard had been arrested that day for drunk-driving after allegedly swerving his way through traffic in a neighborhood in the south of the city.

He told officers he was a paranoid schizophrenic and was off his medication.

Officers took him to the police station where a strip search concluded he was unarmed. He was handcuffed, but then his restraints were taken off as he was taken to see a nurse.

Court documents say he resisted being examined and the woman allegedly screamed after he moved towards her.

Lawyers defending the LAPD said Howard displayed ‘superhuman strength’ and became ‘violently combative’.

Officers claimed he began to throw punches and struggled to free himself as the officers attempted to restrain him.

As officers pushed him to the ground, he was then repeatedly shocked him with a Taser before the chokehold was applied.

When he had stopped moving, the nurse and officers, including Romero, had performed CPR, but were unsuccessful. Howard was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

An autopsy later revealed there had been cocaine in his system. It found that he had died of the ‘effects of neck compression, coronary atherosclerosis with thrombosis and cocaine intoxication’.

Romero told investigators he had only applied the hold for seconds and said he felt Howard posed a deadly threat as the Taser did not appear to subdue him.

However, the LA police commission disagreed and he was suspended for 22 days. But the district attorney did not bring criminal charges against Romero, after prosecutors  determined the use of the hold for a short time was ‘a reasonable escalation in the use of force’.

But Howard’s daughter Tushana described him as a ‘gentle giant’ who was generous and helped the homeless.

According to CNN, the violent man described by the officers was not the same man she knew.

‘I loved my father how he was – the good and bad,’ she said.

But she said that she did know he had struggled with drug abuse in the past, but she believed he had been clean for a number of years. She also claimed to have no idea about any psychiatric problems he had or medications.

CNN reported attorneys representing the city of Los Angeles have agreed to settle the case for $2.85million.

The agreement is pending the approval of the mayor and the city council.

The details surrounding Howard’s death have remained under wraps until now.

The LAPD did not issue a press release at the time of his death as is usually the protocol in deaths in police custody that involve the use of force.

His case is strikingly similar to the chokehold death of Eric Garner by a New York police officer in July last year. Afterwards, the city of New York settled with Garner’s family for $5.9million.

Garner’s death was one of many that launched the Black Lives Matter movement and provoked protests around the country at the police’s handling of unarmed and minority suspects.

Source: The DailyMail

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