In an ongoing saga of police brutality, new video footage recently obtained by ProPublica demonstrates the callousness of officers in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
ProPublica reports that back in 2012, Vachel Howard, 56, was arrested for driving under the influence and taken into custody. The grandfather of seven died less than an hour later.
Officers reportedly strip searched Howard and engaged in violent behavior because he was supposedly “combative"—they “[shot] him with a Taser while simultaneously tackling him to the ground… Four different people [performed] CPR over nine minutes.”
V. James DeSimone, Howard’s lawyer, was direct about what occurred: “He was down on the ground, six officers on top of him, no guns in the nearby vicinity executing a chokehold where there was no threat to the officers or to anybody else. It’s out of policy, it’s unlawful, and in this case it’s murder.”
Howard was transported to a hospital where he died due to the chokehold, along with cocaine intoxication.
To add to the tragedy, the footage shows that after a detention officer employed a chokehold, Howard became motionless and officers called a nurse to the scene. While the nurse went to retrieve her stethoscope, “officers [could] be seen laughing and smiling.”
This terrifyingly apathetic behavior shown toward a man who was simply brought in for a DUI is the same cruelty we have witnessed in police departments across the country. Much too often, traffic stops have led to death, which is utterly unacceptable.
The city of Los Angeles settled with Howard’s family for $2.85 million over his death, which indicates city officials were more than aware of wrongdoing by officers.
Juan Romero, the officer who used the chokehold, was suspended for a mere 22 days—a minor slap on the wrist, akin to the punishment (or lack thereof) numerous officers involved in brutality incidents have received across the United States.
The fact that the video was kept from the public for four years also speaks volumes.
“We’re now seeing throughout the country, due to a lack of transparency and an inability for the public to access important information, that that trust is seriously frayed,” California State Sen. Mark Leno said when advocating for a bill that would give the public access to police footage.
The trust might be irrevocably broken, particularly when we see officers laugh as a man dies.
Banner Image Credit: YouTube, ProPublica