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Family files lawsuit against the LAPD over use of force in man’s death
The victim’s family seeks full compensation for the wrongful death against the City of Los Angeles and LAPD Officers
ARLETA, CALIF., April 6, 2021 – LAPD officers used excessive and deadly force on a man who had surrendered himself by tasing the victim and sending him into cardiac arrest, and then standing by without rendering medical assistance, according to a federal lawsuit filed today.
Daniel Rivera, 37, was pronounced dead on Aug. 14, 2020, by paramedics about a half hour after police responded to a call that a man was trying to enter homes in an Arleta neighborhood. When police arrived, Rivera climbed over a fence and moments later was observed lying face down in a nearby ravine. Four LAPD officers followed over the fence and observed Rivera lying motionless. As they approached, Rivera further surrendered and placed his hands behind his head.
Despite Rivera’s obvious distress and lack of any resistance, the lawsuit states that the LAPD officers jumped on top of him, with one applying his full body weight by kneeling on his back, while two others handcuffed him.
According to the lawsuit, in an excessive and unnecessary move, a fourth officer shocked Rivera four times with a Taser, causing his body to convulse and tense up. Police body camera video also shows an officer grab the back of Rivera’s neck and shove his face into the ground.
Rivera called out for help, saying he did not hurt anyone, as an officer pinned him down so his legs can be tied tightly with a hobble device, also captured on officers’ body camera video. The LAPD officers continued to push on Rivera’s back while he was face-down on his stomach, and did nothing to help him as Rivera’s body convulsed in medical distress. The LAPD officers kept the unresisting Rivera pushed down in a prone position, known to interfere with breathing, after he was handcuffed and hobbled.
“There was absolutely no reason to taze Mr. Rivera, who surrendered and was obviously incapacitated. After torturing Mr. Rivera, the officers hobbled his legs and pressed him face-down into the ground. This is classic positional asphyxiation which often, as here, causes death,” said V. James DeSimone, the Marina del Rey, Calif., civil rights attorney representing the Rivera family. “The Los Angeles Coroner’s office confirmed one of the causes of death was cardiopulmonary arrest following prone physical restraint with electromuscular disruption.”
Rivera was surrendering, posed no threat, and the officers’ unnecessary use of force — and their failure to render immediate medical assistance — is what ultimately led to his death, according to the lawsuit filed by DeSimone.
“The City of Los Angeles and the LAPD have a history of encouraging and tolerating excessive, unnecessary, and deadly force,” DeSimone said. “By failing to acknowledge their wrongdoings and appropriately investigate and impose discipline on the officers, the City of Los Angeles and the Police Department are essentially condoning a culture of brutal behavior.”
The victim’s family is seeking unspecified damages from the city and police department over the wrongful death. Named in the lawsuit are the City of Los Angeles and the involved LAPD officers, whose identities have not been released.
Los Angeles civil rights attorney V. James DeSimone has dedicated his 35-year law career to providing vigorous and ethical representation to achieve justice for those whose civil and constitutional rights are violated.