July 24, 2021

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New body camera footage shows California man who died in custody telling police “I can’t breathe” – CBS News

2 min read

Newly released body camera footage from a May 2017 incident provides new details about the death of Joseph Perez, a man who died after being restrained by law enforcement in Fresno, California. 

In his final moments, Perez told officers, “I can’t breathe,” according to a 16-minute video of the incident released Friday.

In the video, the 41-year-old Perez can be seen in distress, lying face down on the ground as an officer repeatedly tells him to breathe. 

Perez can be heard telling officers, “help me.” He later died on the way to the hospital.

When officers first saw Perez, they said he appeared disturbed and was standing in the roadway. 

An officer said, “Joseph, we’re here to help you.”

A lawsuit filed by Perez’s family blames three entities: Fresno County Sheriff’s deputies, Fresno police and American Ambulance, which the family says asked police to use a paramedic’s board to hold him down — a maneuver paramedics suggested to help secure Perez so they could get him into the ambulance. 

In the video, an officer can be seen sitting on Perez. He says, “We gotta…sit on that board.”

Michelle Perez, Joseph Perez’s sister, said, “16 minutes was the amount of time that I watched as my brother was being murdered.”

The police chief at the time — Andrew Hall — said an internal investigation found no excessive force was used, and blames drugs for Perez’s death, who he said, “became combative.”

“Mr. Perez was found to have a level of methamphetamine that was 24 times the toxic level,” Hall said.

The coroner’s office determined Perez died from “asphyxia during restraint.”

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