Newly released police body-camera footage shows a 51-year-old man screaming, “They’re killing me!” and “I can’t breathe” while Oakland, Calif., police officers held him down. The man later died and last week, the city of Oakland settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family for $450,000.
“You’re killing me, I can see it,” Hernan Jaramillo howled repeatedly in a five-minute video obtained by the Oakland Tribune.
Law enforcement officers were originally called to Jaramillo’s home on July 8, 2013, because his sister, Ana Biocini, reported that an intruder was trying to kill her brother. Upon arrival, there was no sign of an intruder; instead, police said in court documents that Jaramillo was exhibiting “erratic behavior” and refused to be handcuffed.
In a statement released at the time, police said the subject became unresponsive in the “ensuing struggle,” at which point the officers immediately attempted to resuscitate him while waiting for emergency medical personnel to arrive.
Jaramillo never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at the local hospital.
Police did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post Wednesday evening. Questions from the Associated Press and the Tribune about whether the department has policies on medical treatment and restraint, and if there was an internal investigation, have also been unanswered.
The grainy body camera footage uploaded to the Tribune website on Tuesday presents a murky illustration of the encounter, which has been described in differing accounts from the family and the city.
According to the AP, the restraint tactic police used is associated with the 2014 in-custody death of New York’s Eric Garner, who was brought to the ground with a chokehold.
As Jaramillo screamed and struggled, the video captured law enforcement officers hovering above him and calmly telling him to relax.
A woman can be heard crying and speaking Spanish in the background. This is most likely Biocini, as she looked on while the arrest took place.
“Calm down, bud. We’re not killing you,” one officer said to Jaramillo. “You need to stop tensing up. Just relax.”
The back-and-forth continued for a couple minutes before Jaramillo’s softened, and police started asking him whether he had taken any drugs.
“Are you under the influence tonight?” an officer asked. “Did you take anything you shouldn’t have? We’re going to call the paramedics here. The more information you can give, the better.”
By that point, Jaramillo had grown quiet.
The paramedic’s report said he had vomit in his airwaves, was handcuffed and nonresponsive when medical personnel arrived, the Tribune reported. An coroner declared the cause of death multiple drug intoxication associated with physical exertion.
There was evidence of cocaine metabolites and alcohol in Jaramillo’s blood, the autopsy found, and there was no indication that he suffered internal injuries. The coroner said the man’s heart was compromised by hardening arteries.
The family’s lawsuit disputed this assessment, citing an independent pathologist who countered that there was no evidence of cocaine use that evening.
The complaint alleged that Jaramillo was killed by the force police exerted on him.
“People have been taught that you don’t get on somebody’s back and press down,” the family’s attorney, John Burris, told the Tribune.
The family claimed that an officer pressed his knee into Jaramillo’s back, but the city said body camera footage doesn’t support this accusation, nor were there bruises found on his back.
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