PITTSBURG, Calif. - Police body camera videos show a San Francisco Bay Area man who was resisting arrest and died in police custody was held in a choke hold by Pittsburg police officers for 50 seconds before he stopped breathing.
The shaky footage, released to the East Bay Times in 13 separate videos, was in response to a public records request. An edited version of the footage was released with the story Wednesday and KTVU.com is also showing the somewhat graphic video here.
On the afternoon of July 26, 2016, Humberto Martinez was driving with an expired tag when police tried to stop him in a Pittsburg residential neighborhood. Martinez, who had a long list of prior convictions, including assault with a deadly weapon, possession of a dangerous weapon and drug charges, also had an outstanding felony drug warrant and was on probation when the police lights flashed.
He did not pull over right away, but eventually stopped, got out of the car and took off running, through an open garage and into a home. Police nabbed him, struggled to handcuffed him, put him in a choke hold and used a stun gun unsuccessfully on him.
All the while, the 32-year-old screamed and moaned.
Martinez reportedly bit an officer during the fight.
During the struggle, an officer tells him to “stop (expletive) resisting” and to “give me your arm.” Another asks him, “What is your problem, dude?”
As Martinez remains on the floor, an officer pats him on the face and says, “Wake up.” One asks whether Martinez is breathing and another replies, “Yeah, he’s breathing.” About a minute later, they realize he is “going purple” and call for medical help, while removing his handcuffs.
The footage shows several minutes of officers doing CPR on Martinez, yelling, “Come on, bud,” and telling him to “breathe, buddy” and “wake up.”
He doesn’t, and paramedics race to the scene and Martinez is taken out on a stretcher.
A coroner’s inquest jury found the death to be an accident. An autopsy found he likely died because his airway was blocked. Methamphetamine in his system could have made him more prone to death, the coroner’s report says.
His family later sued the city of Pittsburg and several officers.
Their attorney, Michael Haddad, called the footage “sickening” and likened it to the high-profile death of Eric Garner, who died after New York police put him in a choke hold.
Pittsburg police say the footage corroborated officers’ accounts that Martinez violently resisted arrest and that his death was a “tragic accident.” They also released a report from Contra Costa deputy district attorney Barry Groves — who investigates matters involving police — that says officers used “lawful, non-deadly” force in attempting to detain Martinez, the newspaper reported.
The officer who employed the neck hold has not been identified.
However, following the incident Pittsburg Officer Ernesto Mejia was interviewed on camera by a colleague and said he put Martinez in a “carotid hold” during the struggle.
“He kept on trying to bite me, so I put him in a choke hold,” Mejia says, demonstrating with his arms.
“You mean the carotid?” the unidentified officer says.
“Yeah, the carotid,” Mejia says, adding that Martinez was trying to “punch me and head butt me” throughout the incident.