Santa Ana, CA — In the Land of the Free, you can be approached by police who claim the right to beat, kidnap, and or kill you for having an arbitrary substance in your bloodstream deemed illegal by the state. Fermin Valenzuela and his family learned the hard way about the bloody path left behind in the state’s vicious and brutal war on drugs and the deadly lengths the state will go to enforce it.
Valenzuela had harmed no one and was merely washing his clothes inside a laundromat in 2016 when he was accosted by two deputies who claimed the right to kidnap him over the suspected use of drugs.
It is a matter of fact that Valenzuela did, indeed, have methamphetamine in his system. However, as reported, he had harmed no one and his only “crime” was being under the drug’s influence. Likely due to his diminished mental state, Valenzuela did not want to go with police—so force was escalated.
As CBS Los Angeles reports:
After unsuccessfully ordering Valenzuela to comply, officer Woojin Jun of the Anaheim PD is seen using what’s known as a “carotid artery restraint” on the ground in officer Daniel Wolfe’s body-cam footage. Wolfe then shoots Valenzuela with a stun gun, causing him to yell in pain.
Valenzuela then attempts to leave the laundromat before falling to the ground outside and losing consciousness.
Valenzuela went into cardiac arrest and was put into a coma at the hospital. He was taken off life support and died eight days later.
A coroner’s report states Valenzuela was asphyxiated by police during the struggle, despite the D.A.’s subsequent claim that the officers did not use excessive force nor commit any crimes.
“The police were performing a necessary duty in investigating what was happening and protecting the public from somebody who was clearly, possibly very dangerous,” said D.A. Tony Rackauckas.
“Clearly, possibly very dangerous?” That sounds like “definitely almost,” which can also mean “not at all.”
Valenzuela’s two children will now grow up without their father who was killed for his personal choices.
Naturally, the department is defending the actions of its officers and essentially referring to them as heroes out protecting the community.
“With respect to the video, I know it’s hard to watch,” Sgt. Luis Correa told reporters. “Sometimes public safety doesn’t look pretty, but as the D.A.’s investigative report indicated, […] the officers’ actions were reasonable and justified.”
Valenzuela’s family has since filed a lawsuit against the City of Anaheim who will likely lose and the taxpayers will undoubtedly be held accountable for the violent results of a failed war on drugs.
“There’s a pattern and practice of excessive and deadly force used by Anaheim PD,” said Jennifer Rojas, ACLU policy advocate, and she is right.
Sa deadly, as CBS Los Angeles notes, according to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union, that the number of officer-involved deaths over the last three years in Anaheim have exceeded the killings by officers at major police departments such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York per capita. And compared to the California average the ACLU says Anaheim’s numbers were higher in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
WARNING: The video below is disturbing.