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Zelaya v. City of LA

 LAPD Officers’ Excessive Force Leads to $13.5 Million Verdict in Juarez Cedillo Case

Zelaya v. City of LA – On April 8, 2019, Jacobo Juarez Cedillo had an encounter with two LAPD officers while he was sitting in the driveway of a gas station in Van Nuys.  Officers of the LAPD, Dustin Richmond and Joseph Hunt, arrived on scene and handcuffed him even though he had committed no crime.  He had previously been seen yelling and waving his arms around exhibiting signs of mental illness or being under the influence of drugs.  The two officers initially made contact with Cedillo, who was cooperative and attempted to answer the officer’s questions.   While the LAPD officers patted down for weapons they claim that Cedillo allegedly began to resist them, and forced Cedillo to the ground.  The two officers applied their full body weight on Cedillo who was in the prone position.  Cedillo was handcuffed and hobbled.  The officers placed Cedillo on his side, but again put him in a prone restraint when Firefighter’s arrived.

What followed was captured on video and showed that the two officers put their entire body weight upon Jacobo for over 4 and a half minutes. Then, after he went unconscious, he miraculously regained consciousness only to be put immediately back face down with the same two officers putting their entire body weight on his back until he ultimately died.

Plaintiff’s medical expert testified at trial that pressing down on the torso of a person held in a prone restraint greatly increases the work of breathing.  The risks of asphyxiation in this circumstance should have been obvious to the LAPD officers.  Cedillo made efforts to position his body to enable him to breathe while he was restrained with handcuffs behind his back and two hobbles on his legs.  Unfortunately he went unconscious for a final time and ultimately died of anoxic encephalopathy.

A federal jury reached a unanimous verdict of $13.5 million on October 13, 2023 after finding that the officers used excessive and unreasonable force against Cedillo.

Author

MICHAEL S. CARRILLO, Partner

Michael works on high-profile cases that have garnered national media attention. His practice today focuses on child sexual abuse cases, police misconduct cases, catastrophic injuries and other wrongful death matters. He is a passionate advocate for his clients including the countless child sexual abuse victims he currently represents.