LAPD cops ignored asthmatic suspect’s pleas before death: ‘You can talk, so you can breathe’
Police ignored a handcuffed suspect’s pleas for help breathing before he died while in custody, according to an investigation.
Jorge Azucena died during an arrest in September 2013 after he ran a red light and briefly fled from officers.
After he was handcuffed, the 26-year-old Azucena told officers he had asthma and could not breathe.
Two reports issued last week – one by the civilian Police Commission that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department and another by Police Chief Charlie Beck — indicated police did not take Azucena’s claims seriously.
According to a Los Angeles Times report, one of the arresting officers said: “You can talk, so you can breathe.”
A wobbly Azucena had to be assisted to a patrol car, police said, and he begged onlookers for assistance.
“Help me, help me, help me,” he said, according to investigators. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. Help me, please.”
Police carried Azucena into a cell at a South Los Angeles booking station, where they laid him face down on the floor. He was found unconscious a short time later and died before paramedics arrived.
A member of the Police Commission said officers violated their policies and procedures during the arrest.
“There should not be any question that when somebody in custody is heard to say ‘I cannot breathe,’ the officers should promptly call for an ambulance,” said commission member Robert Saltzman.
Nine officers and two sergeants remain under internal investigation, and county prosecutors are reviewing the case to determine whether their actions were criminal.
Another sergeant involved in the case recently retired.