A federal jury on Monday awarded $13.5 million to the family of a man who died after an encounter with Los Angeles police officers in 2019.
The jury made the unanimous decision that the force and restraint used on Jacobo Juarez Cedillo on April 8, 2019 was excessive and unreasonable, and that officers were deliberately indifferent to his constitutional rights.
In bodycam video released by the LAPD, Cedillo can be heard struggling with officers and indicating he isn’t armed.
Officers claimed that they handcuffed him after he was found on the ground of the parking lot of a gas station and wanted to make sure he was okay.
Cedillo cooperated but became agitated. That’s when officers put him in the prone position and pinned him down for 4 minutes and 20 seconds, cutting off his breathing until he became unconscious.
Cedillo apparently awoke, but officers again pinned him down for another 2 minutes and 46 seconds, again cutting off his breathing. Cedillo died days later at a hospital.
In the video, while one officer explains how Cedillo was “flipping out,” he answered “no” when asked if a crime had occurred before the use of force was used.
Lawyers for Cedillo’s family likened the situation to the 2020 in-custody death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
During the trial, the defense said Cedillo had been on drugs and had a heart problem. The LAPD ruled the officers’ actions were reasonable and within department policy, but the Los Angeles Times reported that Chief Michel Moore wished the officers had positioned Cedillo differently during the detention
Despite that, no criminal charges were ever filed in the case.
“Nothing brings my dad back, but I think it’s really important that the police officers are held accountable,” Cedillo’s daughter, Nicole Juarez Zelaya, said during a news conference Monday after the verdict. “I think that the LAPD needs to be held to a higher standard.”
The jury also found that training at LAPD as of April 2019 was inadequate with respect to the risk of prone to restraint.
“We hope there is retraining, but we don’t think so. These officers are still on the force and even worse, the LAPD found their conduct to be within policy,” the family’s attorney, Dale K. Galipo, said.
The LAPD had no comment about the verdict Monday.