PITTSBURG (KPIX 5) – Video from a Pittsburg police officer’s body cam has been released which shows an officer using a chokehold on a suspect resisting arrest until he is unconscious and who later died at a hospital.
The East Bay Times obtained the video, recorded on July 26, 2016, through a public records request.
The video shows officers chasing suspect Humberto Martinez into his friend’s house in Pittsburg. Police said Martinez was wanted on a felony warrant and took off running when officers pulled him over for an expired tag.
“Dude, stop resisting …” an officer is heard to say on the video, which shows officers struggling to put the cuffs on Martinez.
“Let me get his arm, let me get his arm!” an officer says.
Martinez is heard struggling to breathe after an officer applies a chokehold. A few minutes later he turns blue, and officers begin to perform CPR on him. The Times reported Martinez died at a hospital later that day.
The coroner determined Martinez’s official cause of death to be a result of the carotid chokehold, and that methamphetamine in his system and other pre-existing health issues may have contributed to the death.
A district attorney investigation found that Humberto’s death was accidental because, the report says, the force used by the officers was “lawful and reasonable.”
Sonya Serna is Martinez’s friend and was at the house that day in July of 2016 when police came running in.
“What gives them the right to take somebody’s life and do that to them? They don’t have that right,” said Serna. “They take an oath to serve and protect us. If you have to do what you have to do to get him under restraint, then do that. But not to kill him.”
Pittsburg police would not talk on camera because the family has filed a lawsuit against the department. But in a statement, the chief said that while he believes the officers acted lawfully and appropriately “it is always tragic when an individual loses his life.”
In a phone interview, Martinez family attorney Michael Haddad said the officers went too far, and now the public can see the video for themselves.
“Anyone with eyes and a brain can see what they did,” said Haddad. “They killed this guy for no reason. And then after they choked him, they piled on top of him to keep him from breathing. They just suffocated this man to death who was wanted for expired license tags.”