Lawyers for a legally blind black man sued the Los Angeles Police Department and several of its officers Wednesday for allegedly using excessive force and violating the civil rights of the 63-year-old defendant.
The lawsuit alleges that LAPD officers tackled, beat and arrested Michael Moore, who has a history of mental illness, in front of the doorway to his South Los Angeles home on Feb. 28, 2019, then further abused him after taking him to a hospital for medical care.
An LAPD media representative said the department does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit alleges that while Moore lay strapped to a gurney unable to move and surrounded by a half-dozen hospital security guards and multiple LAPD officers, an LAPD officer identified only by the name “Choi” pulled a towel over Moore’s face and cupped his hands over the man’s mouth and nose, blocking his airway.
Moore cried out “I can’t breathe!” at least three times, the plaintiff’s attorney contends in the Los Angeles federal court filing.
Ignoring Moore’s pleas, “Officer Choi continued suffocating Mr. Moore, covering Mr. Moore’s face for a full minute even after Mr. Moore lost consciousness,” the lawsuit alleges.
The LAPD officers falsely claimed that Moore had assaulted officers and others, the suit alleges.
“Unable to afford bail and unwilling to plead guilty to crimes he did not commit, Mr. Moore spent more than four months in jail awaiting trial,” according to the suit.
Following his arrest for allegedly assaulting paramedics and a police officer who responded to a report that Moore had been assaulted by a house guest, a jury acquitted him of all charges, the lawsuit states.
Although Moore survived the alleged attack by officers, he remains “deeply traumatized” and is unable to sleep, is afraid to go outside and “lives in constant fear of the police,” according to his attorneys.
The suit seeks unspecified compensatory, general, statutory and special damages.
“Police officers are sworn to serve and protect, not torture and abuse,” said Brian Olney, one of Moore’s attorneys. “The officers’ own video plainly shows an LAPD officer suffocating Mr. Moore while he lies immobilized on a hospital gurney. This conduct is sickening and outrageous.”