Footage of two New Mexico police officers fist bumping over a dead body has sparked national outrage.
Ben Anthony C de Baca, who suffered from a history of mental illness, was suffocated and killed outside of the Bernalillo Walmart in September of 2015. Now, C de Baca’s family is filing a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming police tools and tactics resulted in his unnecessary death.
On Sept. 6, 2015, C de Baca traveled to the Bernalillo Walmart after getting into an argument with a family member. While in the store, C de Baca destroyed merchandise and upset other shoppers, said police reports.
While Bernalillo and Pueblo of Santa Ana police officers made their way to the scene, Walmart shoppers helped to detain the man. Once officers arrived, they restrained his legs and arms while using force to keep him under control. Officers' body cameras recorded the incident inside the store.
“Want to give me a knee on this shoulder here?” one officer is heard saying on camera. “Let’s see if we can pick him up and walk him out.”
“Stand up or we are going to drag you out one way or another,” another officer said.
C de Baca was then dragged out of the store and into the parking lot, where he was placed on his stomach with his arms and legs restrained behind him. During the struggle, C de Baca allegedly bit an officer on the thigh, which prompted officers to place a spit sock over his face.
“What is that?” one officer asked on camera.
“A f****g bite mark, dude. This c**t f**k bit the f**k out of me, dude. I had to punch his ass off of me,” the other officer replied.
Moments later, C de Baca cried out that he couldn't breathe and even shouted to the officers that he was dying. According to the video, the officers ignored his cries for help.
C de Baca suffocated while restrained under the spit sock and died just minutes later. Seeing the severity of the situation, some officials attempted CPR; however, he was already gone.
To make things more troubling, the video then showed two police officers giving each other a fist bump about 10 minutes later. Although some are claiming the fist bump was a greeting of a newly arrived officer, it still seems like a highly inappropriate gesture to perform over a dead body.
Additionally, the attorney representing C de Baca’s family believes a spit sock should not have been used in his situation.
“I will tell you that spit sock is not to be used for the purpose of trying to stop someone from biting,” Ahmad Assed, the attorney representing C de Baca’s family, told KOB 4. “What we are saying is they misused and misapplied the spit sock on Mr. C de Baca. In doing so, they were very negligent. He is clearly crying out for help. He was clearly indicating to them that he couldn’t breathe.”
“That is the most troubling for me,” Assed added. “It shows a sign for me that says, ‘We are not human. We know someone 10 feet away from us is dead as a result of what we may have done and we have the ability to fist bump one another on top of a dead body.’”
According to Assed, a wrongful death lawsuit will be filed by the family. An investigation by the district attorney is still pending.
(Photo: Santa Ana Police via Twitter)