The District Attorney’s office in Orange County, Calif., has released footage from a 2016 arrest that led to the death of Fermin Vincent Valenzuela, 32, an Anaheim landscaper.
Police initially approached Valenzuela in after receiving reports of a suspicious man following a woman to her home, according to the Orange County Register. In the video released to the public, it’s not apparent why police approached Valenzuela in particular, or if he was the only one they approached.
The 11-minute encounter quickly escalates. Anaheim police officers — named as Woojin Jun and Daniel Wolfe — fail to subdue Valenzuela as he resists arrest, escapes their control and runs from the laundromat where their encounter began. The officers would later state that Valenzuela was under the influence of methamphetamine, allowing him the strength to fight them off over and over.
Police used stun guns on Valenzuela several times in the encounter. After cornering him, they deployed a controversial choke hold technique designed to cut off oxygen flow to the brain and cause a suspect to lose consciousness. The same move killed Eric Garner, a New York man who was accused of selling untaxed cigarettes, in a 2014 arrest on Staten Island. The 2014 incident shocked the country and was ruled a homicide.
When used on Fermin Vincent Valenzuela, the choke hold caused him to lose consciousness. The video ends as police attempt to revive him.
Valenzuela would suffer three heart attacks en route to the hospital and die of complications of asphyxia while under the influence of methamphetamine, according to the Orange County Register. He was placed under a medically-induced coma and later taken off life support eight days after the arrest.
Officers involved in the violent arrest were cleared of any misconduct; the District Attorney’s office declared that they had not used force improperly.
Valenzuela’s family members plan to bring a wrongful death suit against the city of Anaheim. They say Valenzuela was unarmed and not an immediate threat. Valenzuela’s ex-wife Patricia Gonzalez said he suffered from bipolar disorder and had recently been homeless.
Editor’s Note: Some viewers may find the footage below disturbing.