The mother of an unarmed man who died 12 hours after struggling with a pair of Los Angeles Police Department anti-gang officers while under the influence of cocaine filed a $25 million federal wrongful death lawsuit Monday.
Lilia Abrego Figueroa’s complaint names the city of Los Angeles and its police department, along with LAPD Sgts. Jeff Mares and Robert Calderon, Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti.
The plaintiff’s 37-year-old son, Omar Abrego, died about 5:20 a.m. Aug. 3 from the “effects of cocaine,” but he also suffered “physical and emotional duress” from his arrest, according to an autopsy released last week.
The autopsy was completed in October, but was not made public until Feb. 24. Abrego’s death has been cited by some activists as an example of excessive force by police.
Abrego was arrested around 5:45 p.m. Aug. 2 in the 6900 block of South Main Street. Calderon and Mares were flagged down by a bystander who told them about the driver of a white vehicle, which they later spotted being driven recklessly and nearly hitting a pedestrian in a crosswalk, police said.
After the vehicle stopped, Abrego got out and tried to flee, but was taken into custody during “a physical altercation,” in which one of the officers suffered a broken hand and the other a knee injury, according to the LAPD.
They were treated at a hospital and released. Abrego was taken to Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, where he eventually died.
The autopsy report notes that Abrego’s strange behavior the night of his arrest was due to “cocaine intoxication.”
“However, there is a temporal relationship between the arrest maneuver and death which complicated the acute cocaine intoxication, therefore the manner of death is deemed homicide,” according to the report.
The autopsy was released after Beck asked that the security hold be removed on the report.
The department’s Force Investigation Division, Office of the Inspector General and District Attorney’s Office are continuing to investigate the case, and when completed, prosecutors will decide whether charges are warranted.
The city Police Commission will also make the final determination of whether the officers’ actions were consistent with department policy.
Police said they are still urging any witnesses to the arrest or anyone else with information to come forward.
— City News Service