The family of a 56-year old man killed in police custody is set to receive close to $3 million from the city of Los Angeles after he was placed in a fatal chokehold, according to court records.
Vachel Howard, who was unarmed, informed officers that he was a paranoid schizophrenic when they arrested him for drunk driving in 2012.
Swarmed by five officers with one providing the horrific restraint, Howard took his final breaths as seen in the surveillance tape, court records and police commission files used as key pieces of evidence in the courtroom.
Robert Wilcox, a spokesman for Los Angeles city attorney Mike Feuer, declined to comment. However, his office has agreed to tentatively settle the case for $2.85 million pending the approval of the city council and mayor.
Similar to Eric Garner, Howard was allegedly taken down for resisting arrest, according to officers. However, the LAPD failed to issue a press release the day Howard died, which is customary when in-custody deaths occur using force.
The incident in question all began on June 4, 2012, when Howard began swerving through his South LA neighborhood which led to his DUI arrest.
Detention officer Juan Romero is seen on the tape with his arm around Howard providing what is known by the LAPD as the “modified carotid restraint.”
Romero told investigators that he only applied the hold on Howard for seconds, for which he believed he was justified because Howard was not restrained by the Taser and continued to struggle with officers as they tried to restrain him.
The city's police commission, which is a civilian panel that advises the department and regulates whether using force is justified, felt otherwise.
The commission agreed that Romero's claim that Howard posed a deadly threat was “unreasonable” and that his decision to provide the forceful restraint “violated department policy.” Romero was suspended for 22 days but still remains on the force.
An autopsy performed on Howard showed he died of "effects of neck compression, coronary atherosclerosis with thrombosis and cocaine intoxication.” The manner of death was deemed a homicide.
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(Photo: Howard Family)
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