South L.A. man sues LAPD, alleging officer suffocated him until he was unconscious

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An LAPD officer places his hand on the face of a man in custody while being treated at a hospital in downtown L.A. on Feb. 28, 2019. This is a still from an officer's body cam footage, which was obtained by the man's legal team before he sued the department on April 1, 2020. (Matthew Strugar)

An LAPD officer places his hand on the face of a man in custody while being treated at a hospital in downtown L.A. on Feb. 28, 2019. This is a still from an officer’s body cam footage, which was obtained by the man’s legal team before he sued the department on April 1, 2020. (Matthew Strugar)

A legally blind man is suing the Los Angeles Police Department, alleging an officer suffocated him while he was strapped to a hospital gurney last year.

LAPD officers are accused of beating the man after responding to his apartment in the South Los Angeles neighborhood of Manchester Square, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The city of Los Angeles and eight officers are named as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the officer held his hand over 63-year-old Michael Moore’s mouth until he lost consciousness at a hospital in downtown L.A. The suit also alleges LAPD falsely claimed Moore resisted arrest and threatened firefighters and an officer.

A jury acquitted him of all charges but not before he spent 139 days in jail awaiting trial — he was unable to afford bail, court filings state.

LAPD Officer Luis Garcia said the agency cannot comment since the case involves pending litigation.

On Feb. 28, 2019, officers arrived at Moore’s home after he got into an altercation with a woman who had been using his kitchen, court filings state. They argued about her cleaning the kitchen before she allegedly struck Moore in the face and shoved him, causing him to fall down a flight of stairs.

The lawsuit alleges she also told Moore her friends could kill him.

Before officers arrived, firefighters responded and Moore told them he could drive himself to the hospital, court filings state. But after they left, they allegedly told LAPD officers waiting outside that Moore has mental illness and is blind.

Police descended upon Moore’s apartment moments later.

“Mr. Moore did not realize that he was already surrounded by police officers, who
had crept up the stairs without identifying themselves as police or even announcing their presence,” court filings state.

As they prepared to arrest Moore, one of the officers allegedly said, he is “like blind so, he doesn’t even know we are out here,” according to the lawsuit.

Moore felt someone grab and twist his wrist, and officers “twisted his neck, slammed his head to the floor, beat him, and jammed their knees into his back,” the lawsuit states. They allegedly did not respond when he asked why he was being arrested and carried him down the stairs in handcuffs.

He was taken to Dignity Health – California Hospital Medical Center in downtown L.A., where an officer’s body camera footage shows him strapped to a gurney.

A group of medical workers, hospital security guards and officers were standing around him when one of the officers cupped his hand over Moore’s face, which is covered with a white towel, the video shows. He screams “I can’t breathe” multiple times, and later in the video, he falls quiet and his body lies still.

The lawsuit alleges the officer was “pressing his hands on Mr. Moore’s face for another minute, at one point repositioning his hands to press even more firmly on Mr. Moore’s mouth and nose.” This allegedly blocked Moore’s airway, causing him to lose consciousness and make his body go limp, according to the lawsuit.

The officer is seen later in the video taking his hand off of Moore’s face. A medical worker eventually removed the towel, court filings state.

Moore has been “deeply traumatized” by the incident, according to the lawsuit.

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