The Los Angeles Police Department is facing a lawsuit from a 63-year-old legally blind man who is alleging an officer suffocated him while he was strapped to a hospital gurney last year.
According to the lawsuit, an officer held his hand over the mouth of Michael Moore until he lost consciousness. The suit also claims that LAPD beat Moore after responding to his apartment and falsely accused Moore of resisting arrest and threatening firefighters and a police officer.
Moore spent 139 days in jail while he awaited trial because he was unable to afford bail. He was ultimately acquitted of all charges.
The initial encounter between Moore and LAPD happened on Feb. 28, 2019. Officers arrived at Moore’s home after he got into an altercation with a woman who had been using his kitchen, court filings state. They argued about her cleaning the kitchen before she allegedly struck Moore in the face and shoved him, causing him to fall down a flight of stairs.
The lawsuit alleges she also told Moore her friends could kill him.
Before officers arrived, firefighters responded and Moore told them he could drive himself to the hospital, court filings state. But after they left, they allegedly told LAPD officers waiting outside that Moore has mental illness and is blind.
Police descended upon Moore’s apartment moments later.
“Mr. Moore did not realize that he was already surrounded by police officers, who had crept up the stairs without identifying themselves as police or even announcing their presence,” court filings state.
Moore felt someone grab and twist his wrist, and officers “twisted his neck, slammed his head to the floor, beat him, and jammed their knees into his back,” the lawsuit states. They allegedly did not respond when he asked why he was being arrested and carried him down the stairs in handcuffs.
He was taken to Dignity Health – California Hospital Medical Center in downtown L.A., where an officer’s body camera footage shows him strapped to a gurney.
A group of medical workers and officers appear to be treating him when one of the officers cupped his hand over Moore’s face, which is covered with a white towel, the video shows. He screams “I can’t breathe” multiple times, and later in the video, he falls quiet and his body lies still.
The lawsuit alleges the officer was “pressing his hands on Mr. Moore’s face for another minute, at one point repositioning his hands to press even more firmly on Mr. Moore’s mouth and nose.” This allegedly blocked Moore’s airway, causing him to lose consciousness and make his body go limp, according to the lawsuit.
The officer is seen later in the video taking his hand off of Moore’s face. A medical worker eventually removed the towel, court filings state.
Moore has been “deeply traumatized” by the incident, according to the lawsuit.