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Jury Awards $13.2 Million To Family Of Man Who Died From Police Chokehold

The family of a man who died after a confrontation with Anaheim, Ca. police in 2016 have been awarded more than $13 million after a jury decided that the officers involved in the encounter used unreasonable force and were negligent.

After 2 hours of deliberation, the jury returned with a unanimous verdict. 

The jury foreman, Brian Marcus, said the 8 jurors “had the task of putting a dollar value on a human being’s life, and it was so gut-wrenching,” he said. “I would have liked it to be a heck of a lot more for what this family and this poor man endured.”

Fermin Vincent Valenzuela, 32, died on July 2, 2016, after officers used a stun gun and a chokehold to subdue him. Police claimed Valenzuela was violent, under the influence of methamphetamine and had attempted to flee. Valenzuela died from complications of asphyxia.

Officers Woojin Jun and Daniel Wolfe arrived on the scene after a woman called to report that a man had followed her mother’s home and was pacing in front of their house. 

According to a statement given by Anaheim city spokesman Mike Lyster, officer Wolfe noticed blood on Valenzuela’s hand and a screwdriver in his bag.

Wolfe ordered Valenzuela to put his hands behind his back but he refused. Valenzuela fought the officers as they attempted to detain him, which prompted Wolfe to use a taser, Lyster said.

Valenzuela then tried to flee from the officers. The officers then tried to subdue Valenzuela with a carotid hold — a move that requires applying pressure to the sides of the neck, blocking the flow of blood to the brain and leading to temporary loss of consciousness.

After being unresponsive, Valenzuela as taken to the hospital by paramedics where he had three heart attacks. He remained on life support for 8 days, until family members decided to remove him after he was declared brain-dead. 

Investigators from the Orange County district attorney’s office found the officers’ actions justified, but Valenzuela’s family, saying he was unarmed and not a threat, filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit against the city of Anaheim.

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