SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — On the heels of a scathing report on its use of excessive force, an Orange County police department is facing further criticism following the release of graphic footage showing a suspect’s altercation with officers that would result in the man’s death.
Video from body cams released by the Orange County district attorney Wednesday shows officers of the Anaheim Police Department in a prolonged struggle to arrest Fermin Valenzuela inside a laundromat in 2016.
Valenzuela, 32, was suspected of being under the influence of methamphetamine.
After unsuccessfully ordering Valenzuela to comply, officer Woojin Jun of the Anaheim PD is seen using what’s known as a “carotid artery restraint” on the ground in officer Daniel Wolfe’s body-cam footage. Wolfe then shoots Valenzuela with a stun gun, causing him to yell in pain.
Valenzuela then attempts to leave the laundromat before falling to the ground outside and losing consciousness.
Valenzuela went into cardiac arrest and was put into a coma at the hospital. He was taken off life support and died eight days later.
A coroner’s report states Valenzuela was asphyxiated by police during the struggle, despite the D.A.’s subsequent claim that the officers did not use excessive force nor commit any crimes.
“The police were performing a necessary duty in investigating what was happening and protecting the public from somebody who was clearly, possibly very dangerous,” said D.A. Tony Rackauckas.
Valenzuela was survived by two young children. His family has sued the City of Anaheim.
The American Civil Liberties Union released a report this month concluding that Anaheim PD showed a pattern and practice of using excessive and deadly force, allegedly killing 33 people between 2003 and 2016. The number of officer-involved deaths over the last three years in Anaheim have exceeded the killings by officers at major police departments such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, per capita.
The department stands by its officers’ actions.
“With respect to the video, I know it’s hard to watch,” Sgt. Luis Correa told reporters. “Sometimes public safety doesn’t look pretty, but as the D.A.’s investigative report indicated, […] the officers’ actions were reasonable and justified.”
The City of Anaheim is expected to outline how a new police review board will operate next week. It is said this body will have more power than the city’s current citizen oversight committee.