Man choked un­con­scious can sue po­lice, court rules

Antelope Valley Press - - News -

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Cal­i­for­nia man can pro­ceed to trial with a law­suit against a po­lice of­fi­cer who choked him un­con­scious at a Las Ve­gas night­club, a fed­eral ap­peals court ruled Tues­day.

“It has long been clear that a po­lice of­fi­cer may not seize a non-re­sist­ing, re­strained per­son by plac­ing him in a choke hold,” a three-mem­ber panel of the Ninth U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals said.

The court said that there is a “ro­bust con­sen­sus” among ap­pel­late courts na­tion­wide that such use vi­o­lates the con­sti­tu­tional ban on un­rea­son­able search and seizure, the San Francisco Chronicle re­ported. Ian Tu­ua­male­malo, de­scribed by his lawyer as a Los Angeles-area con­struc­tion worker, was with rel­a­tives at the Hard Rock Ho­tel and Casino in Jan­u­ary 2014 when of­fi­cers ap­proached the group, the court said.

Tu­ua­male­malo, who weighed nearly 380 pounds, tried to talk to them and was told to shut up, lead­ing to shov­ing, the court said.

“They claim they thought he was the ring­leader” of a vi­o­lent group, but Tu­ua­male­malo was just “try­ing to pull every­body back,” his at­tor­ney, Paola Ar­meni, told the Chronicle.

Tu­ua­male­malo fell down while be­ing pushed down a hall­way, got up and was walk­ing to­ward an exit when he was grabbed and punched in the face, then forced to the ground by five of­fi­cers.

A video showed one of­fi­cer ap­ply­ing a choke hold, and Tu­ua­male­malo blacked out, the court said.

It took sev­eral at­tempts to re­vive him.

He was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of dis­or­derly con­duct, re­sist­ing ar­rest and ma­li­cious de­struc­tion of prop­erty. But the charges were later dropped.

Tu­ua­male­malo sued, al­leg­ing use of ex­ces­sive force. The of­fi­cer who ap­plied the choke hold ar­gued that Tu­ua­male­malo had been re­sist­ing ar­rest.

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