LAPD video released of officer choking man to death

New video has surfaced Thursday showing Los Angeles police officers choking a man to death in one of its jails.

The 30-minute video shows 56-year-old Vachel Howard being handcuffed to a bench inside LAPD’s 77th Street Station Jail on the afternoon of June 4, 2012 and later being subdued by officers until he stopped moving, a ProPublica investigation revealed.

It took four minutes for a nurse to begin resuscitation attempts, all the while officers can be seen laughing over him. It took several more minutes and several other people performing CPR for them to realize emergency medical personnel should be called.

The three contributing factors which contributed to Howard’s death were Cocaine intoxication, heart disease and the chokehold he underwent during the scuffle with officers, ProPublica reported.

After two years in court, the city settled a wrongful death case with Howard’s family for $2.85 million.

During the trial, ProPublica’s requests to the judge, the police department and the city attorney’s office for the video had turned up nil.   

ProPublica offered its reason for publishing the video LAPD didn’t want released:

Videos have become a critical aspect of the latest national reckoning with deadly interactions between the police and the public. In New York, an eyewitness recorded Eric Garner’s death at the hands of a police officer who placed him in a chokehold. In Chicago, a reporter successfully forced the police department to release the footage of an officer firing his gun 16 times in the course of killing Laquan McDonald.

Topher Sanders of ProPublica spent months this year researching Vachel Howard’s death inside a police jail in Los Angeles. The family of the 56-year-old Howard had won a $2.85 million settlement from the city, but two videos that captured what happened that day in 2012 had never been made public.

Sanders recently obtained the two videos. The Howard family was not eager to have the images released, but recognized their potential value.

ProPublica today is making both videos available in their entirety. We are also publishing an edited version, one that combines footage from both videos in an effort to offer our readers a clear and condensed depiction of the deadly episode.