California Jury Awards $13.2 Million to Family of Man who Died in Chokehold
A California jury rejected the police narrative in favor of the truth after watching body cam videos showing a pair of cops choking and tasering a homeless man who went into a coma and died.
Anaheim police officers Woojin Jun and Daniel Wolfe had long been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Orange County District Attorney's Office for the death of Fermin Valenzuela on July 2, 2016 even though an autopsy determined he died from complications of asphyxia.
But the jury came away with a different opinion Wednesday when it unanimously agreed that the cops were negligent and used excessive force. The $13.2 million settlement will go to Valenzuela's children.
According to the Los Angeles Times:
Marcus, the jury foreman, disagreed. Watching body camera videos released by police convinced him “to make the decision I did. That and other elements like listening to Valenzuela’s two children on the stand.”
The executive recruiter and father of three said he paid close attention to the officers’ testimonies. “They seemed like really wonderful people, but my opinion is that they exercised bad judgment,” he said. “There was very little attempt to deescalate the situation.”
Attorney Mardirossian said he was grateful for the videos.
“Thank God for body cameras, because cameras captured all the wrongdoing of the officers,” he said. “The bottom line is the officers came up with all sorts of stories of Mr. Valenzuela fighting with them, and yet there was not a single mark on Officer Jun’s face, even though he testified that he was struck three times. The body camera does not show Mr. Valenzuela taking a fighter’s stance or throwing a punch.”
Mardirossian also said he hopes police use of force will decrease.
“Police must stop this type of inhumane activity with their subjects,” he said. “The rank and file deserve our respect. However, sometimes mistakes can be made.”
Anaheim police initially confronted Valenzuela inside a laundromat as he was washing clothes because a woman had called police to complain about him following her mother home and who then paced in front of the home. It was later determined he was high on methamphetamine.
Below is a video combining surveillance and body cameras that captured what took place that day.