$13M award to kids of man who died in struggle with police
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A jury awarded $13.2 million to the two children of a man who died after a confrontation with police in Southern California three years ago.
The decision Wednesday came two days after jurors decided Anaheim officers were negligent and used unreasonable force against Fermin Vincent Valenzuela, the Orange County Register reported.
Valenzuela died from complications of asphyxia after officers used a stun gun and restraint hold to subdue the 32-year-old, who was high on meth and violently struggled with police during the July 2, 2016, incident.
The officers initially responded following reports of a suspicious man who had followed a woman to her home. They confronted Valenzuela at a laundromat.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office found the two officers’ actions justified. Valenzuela’s family filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit against the city, claiming he was unarmed and not a threat.
Anaheim city officials called the judgment “unwarranted.”
Spokesman Mike Lyster said city officials believe the officers “acted reasonably and in the best interest of public safety.”
After the confrontation, an unresponsive Valenzuela was taken to a hospital, where he suffered three heart attacks and was taken off life support on July 10, 2016.
Family attorney Garo Mardirossian said Wednesday that Valenzuela did not commit any serious crime and the carotid restraint officers executed should not have been used, calling it “too dangerous.” In that hold, an officer applies pressure on the sides of the neck, cutting off blood flow to the brain and causing a temporary loss of consciousness.
Jurors awarded $11.4 million to the minor son and $1.8 million for the younger daughter. At the time of their father’s death they were 9 and 5 years old respectively, one of the family’s attorneys said.
The trial, in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, began on Nov. 12.
Information from: The Orange County Register, http://www.ocregister.com