ANAHEIM (CBSLA) — Millions of dollars were awarded Thursday to the children of an Anaheim man who died after being restrained in a carotid hold by two officers back in 2016.
In the largest judgment ever against the Anaheim Police Department, a Los Angeles jury awarded the son and daughter of Vincent Valenzuela $13.2 million after it found officers Jun and Wolfe guilty of unreasonable force and negligence.
“We’re happy,” Patricia Gonzales, Valenzuela’s ex-wife, said. “It was never about the money. We wanted to prove that Vincent was innocent, and he died for no reason.”
The city of Anaheim said the judgement was unwarranted and that the officers used approved restraint techniques on Valenzuela, who they said was under the influence of methamphetamine and was armed with a screwdriver. The Orange County District Attorney cleared the officers of any criminal conduct.
Police were initially called by a woman who said Valenzuela followed her home.
Video from body cameras and security footage from a laundromat showed the prolonged struggle with the 32-year-old man who had recently been released from prison.
“Within just a few seconds after that, they had him on the ground,” Garo Mardirossian, the attorney for the family, said. “They were applying neck holds on him, and they began to tase him and they began to brutalize him for the next six minutes.”
The coroner ruled that Valenzuela died of asphyxia.
But the city maintained the officers did nothing wrong.
“When our officers arrived, they took measured, reasonable actions at each stage during this incident to try and merely get the person who was determined to resist, fight and get away to get him in a situation where they could interview him,” Mike Lyster, a spokesperson for the city, said.
The judgement will be paid out of an insurance pool the city pays in to, with $1.8 million going to Valenzuela’s daughter and $11.4 million going to his son.
The city said it was reviewing its options to determine whether or not it would appeal the jury’s decision.