As the Derek Chauvin trial begins its third week, as Maryland’s legislature passes a law to address police abuses, the latest example of excessive force by police against a person of color has emerged in a lawsuit filed against cops in Windsor, Va.
On Dec. 5, police officers pulled over U.S. Army officer Caron Nazario, drawing their guns and shouting at him to get out of his car, ABC News reported.
Nazario, who is black and Latino, tells them he’s afraid to get out of his car.
The officer responds angrily: “You should be.”
Things began when a Windsor Police Officer attempted to stop Nazario because his SUV had tinted windows and was missing a rear license plate.
Nazario didn’t stop right away, he put his flashers, drove under the speed limit, and continued driving for less than two minutes so he could get to a gas station where the lighting was better, NBC news reported.
The officer told dispatch the driver “was ‘eluding police’ and he considered it a ‘high-risk traffic stop,'” according to the officers report.
Nazario’s SUV had a temporary license in the back window, making it legal.
It didn’t matter. Angry, scared, or both, police drew their weapons and started shouting at him to get out of the car.
One officer yelled at Nazario: “You received an order. Obey it.”
Police officers belittled, struck, pepper sprayed, and eventually handcuffed Nazario.
One officer, Joe Gutierrez, has been terminated from the force, NPR reported. Nazario is suing him and his partner Daniel Crocker violating his constitutional rights by using “excessive force and unlawful search and seizure.”
The scene was captured on police-worn body cameras. (Video here.)
This news comes in as neighboring Maryland just passed a bill to repeal its 1970s-era “Police Bill of Rights.”
The New York Times says the law would restrict police use of force.
One section creates a new statewide use-of-force policy and says that officers who violate those standards, causing serious injury or death, can be convicted and sent to prison for up to 10 years. The standard says that force can be used only to prevent “an imminent threat of physical injury” to a person or to “effectuate a legitimate law enforcement objective.”New York Times
The new law also would restrict no-knock warrants, mandate body cameras, and prohibit police officers from preventing civilians from recording them, Vox reported.
George Floyd’s death by police brought renewed attention to the 2019 police killing of Elijah McClain, a young black man, in Aurora, CO.
In both McClain’s and Floyd’s murders, police officers have cited “excited delirium” as an issue.
Excited delirium boils down to the notion that extremely agitated people can get superhuman strength (requiring a strong police response). Excited delirium might be drug induced or a form psychosis a witness said
As part of his cross examination of prosecution witnesses, Derek Chauvin’s attorney has started trying to establish the idea that Floyd was in “excited delirium.”
Here’s McClain’s story. He was a 23-year-old musician and massage therapist who was autistic.
He was walking home for the store listening to music, wearing an open faced ski mask. His family said he wore it to stay warm because of his anemia.
Someone called 9-1-1 because of the mask, but reported nothing suspicious.
The encounter begins with an officer saying in an authoritative voice. “Stop. Stop right there!” according to police body cam video.
McClain doesn’t stop right away.
The police confront McClain and tell him he’s acting suspicious.
McClain tells the officers he’s an introvert and asks them to respect his boundaries.
According to the police version of events, McClain resisted officers and a struggle followed. (An independent investigation sought by the Aurora City Council would later determine that the officers had no lawful reason to stop McClain, let alone detain him.)
The confrontation escalated, with 700 pounds of police officers subduing the 140-pound McClain, and putting him in a choke hold.
“I can’t breath. Please stop,” McClain said. “I’m an introvert and I’m different.”
Later, McClain appears panicked and in tears. An officer tells him in a threatening voice: “You keep messing around and I am going to bring my dog out and he’s going to dog bite you. Do you understand?”
Paramedics arrive. They sedate McClain with ketamine because police suggest he has had excited delirium.
McClain gets too much ketamine, a dose appropriate for a larger man. He would be taken to the hospital, suffer a heart attack, and die three days later.
The District Attorney didn’t charge the officers, saying he “lacked evidence to prove the officers caused McClain’s death or that their force was unjustified,” CNN reported.
The case is getting new scrutiny.
A CBS news report on McClain’s death said a “2018 review of studies and articles found excited delirium was associated with more than 10% of deaths in police custody.”
According to testimony during the Chauvin trial, Minneapolis police are trained to recognize and respond to excited delirium.
Dr. Bill Smock, a forensic medicine expert, testified last week that “he believes excited delirium is real,” ABC reported. “But he said Floyd met none of the 10 criteria developed by the American College of Emergency Physicians. A minimum of six signs are required for the diagnosis, he said.”
Four students at the University of St. Thomas School of Law Community Justice Project argue that “excited delirium” should be dropped from police protocols altogether, according to a story in Bloomberg Law.
The majority of excited delirium diagnoses involve Black men. The consensus drawn from both anecdotal and statistical evidence by civil rights activists is this: Excited delirium is used as a get-out-of-jail-free card for police brutality.Bloomberg Law