Los Angeles, CA — On the night that police officers with the LAPD stopped him, Jacobo Juarez Cedillo, 50, had not committed a crime and was not suspected of committing a crime. Unfortunately, this was not a defense against officers detaining him and subsequently escalating force until Cedillo fell unconscious, stopped breathing and died. Cedillo is survived by his 20-year-old daughter who is now seeking justice for her father.
Nicole Juarez Zelaya, 20, claims in a recent lawsuit that police officers unnecessarily held down her father — who was handcuffed and hogtied — restricting his breathing for several minutes until he died. Zelaya will likely win the lawsuit as the officers' own body camera footage backs up her claims.
“My only desire is for justice to be served,” Zelaya said in an interview with The LA Times. “The system is messed up and there needs to be action taken.”
On the night police stopped Cedillo, he had not committed a crime and they had no reason for handcuffing and detaining him. They would later claim Cedillo nearly got hit by a truck and this was the reason for the stop. However, had police let the innocent man go, he would have likely fared far better than he did as police "protected" him.
The incident unfolded in April of 2019 when police — without probable cause — approached and then handcuffed Cedillo. As the video shows, Cedillo allows officer to handcuff him without putting up any resistance at all.
Cedillo tells officers that he just wants to catch the bus and that he has to work in the morning. At this point, officers should have let the man go as he was not a danger to anyone — but they did not. Instead of allowing Cedillo to go about his business, police decided they were going to violate this father's 4th amendment right and search him.
“Relax,” one officer says, after the officers walked Cedillo to the back of their patrol car.
“I don’t have nothing,” Cedillo says.
“OK, then calm down and relax,” the officer says.
Eventually, after being held against his will for several minutes, Cedillo becomes aggravated. In what appears to be a deliberate provocation, every time cops tell him to relax, they yank on his arms. When Cedillo pulls back in the opposite direction, police escalate. Officers then throw Cedillo to the ground and the body camera comes off.
For the next three minutes until backup arrives, Cedillo is pinned to the ground in handcuffs with two officers on top of him. When other officers arrive, they hog tie the man using a hobble restraint.
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At one point, as multiple officers apply their weight to the hog tied man who had committed no crime, the supervisor asks, “We don’t have a crime?”
That's when one of the arresting officers admits, “No, we were just ... we were going to check his pockets and that’s when he just started flipping out and tried running and we just, we took him to the ground.”
Moments later, Cedillo would stop breathing and an ambulance was called. Five days later, he'd be taken off life support and die. The results of the autopsy were inconclusive but noted that cops squeezing the air from his lungs was a factor in his death.
“There is a temporal relationship between the cardiopulmonary arrest after prone physical restraint by law enforcement and the decedent was reported to become unresponsive after placement on the gurney,” the medical examiner wrote. “A component of asphyxia due to possible compression of the body may be contributory to the cardiopulmonary arrest, however there are no findings at autopsy that establish asphyxia. Determination of the amount of force used and the physical effects of the restraint cannot be established at autopsy.”
Zelaya argues in the lawsuit that the medical examiner's report backs up her claims that the police takedown and subsequent force used on her father are what led to his death and should have never been used in the first place.
“It is well known throughout law enforcement and medical professionals that holding a subject in a prone position restraint can be deadly,” the lawsuit states. “Compressing an arrestee in a prone position with a police officer’s weight on his or her back, and/or upper torso, restricts the ability to breathe and blood flow to the brain, and can result in anoxic encephalopathy, which is a process that begins with the cessation of cerebral blood flow to brain tissue, like in this case.”
What's more, Cedillo was not an arrestee. As the body camera video shows us, police admit that they do not have a crime and they were searching him without probable cause.
After Cedillo's death, the department investigated themselves and found they did nothing wrong. Apparently, handcuffing a man who had committed no crime and then piling on top of him until he stops breathing, is fine and dandy, according to the LAPD — more evidence that the system is broken.
“There’s a lot wrong with the system. There’s just a lot that needs to be done,” Zelaya said. “People need to be seen as human beings.” We agree.
Below is the video in which police violate Cedillo's constitutional rights and a father who had harmed no one dies as a result. At the end of the video, notice how the LAPD brings up Cedillo's past as if this justifies what they did to him that night. Shameful indeed.