A federal jury has found that Los Angeles police officers were not liable for the death of a man who died in custody after swallowing a bindle of heroin, City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Thursday.
The children of Alex Aguilar had sought $12.5 million in a lawsuit filed against the city in 2017 in relation to their father’s death on June 9, 2016.
Aguilar, 42, was arrested for violating the terms of a gang injunction in the Wilmington area and smuggled a large bindle of heroin into the Harbor Division station, as well as a small quantity of methamphetamine, Feuer’s office said.
While undergoing a strip search, Aguilar placed the heroin in his mouth in an attempt to swallow the narcotics and ultimately died as a result.
Feuer’s office said two officers, who were conducting the search, immediately commanded Aguilar to spit out the drugs but Aguilar refused, and violently resisted the officers’ efforts to physically stop him.
The Aguilar family’s lawsuit argued that the officers beat Aguilar, which “resulted in multiple blunt force injuries to his head,” before using a Taser on him which caused “continued involuntary muscle contractions or temporary paralysis of Mr. Aguilar’s body.’ ” The officers also did not “summon emergency medical assistance in a timely fashion” when it became obvious he needed medical attention, the lawsuit said.
Feuer’s office argued that three officers engaged in CPR to attempt to save Aguilar’s life, as did paramedics from the Los Angeles Fire Department who arrived minutes later.
According to the coroner’s report, Aguilar died from asphyxiation from the bindle of heroin being lodged in his throat, along with the combined toxicity of heroin, methamphetamine and alcohol being contributing factors to his death.
The jury rejected claims of wrongful death, excessive force and improper medical treatment as to all five police officers named in the lawsuit.