Rio Rancho, NM — Ben Anthony C de Baca has a history of mental illness. But, he was able to maintain a relatively normal lifestyle until September of last year when doctors changed his medication. According to C de Baca’s wife, he’d been “acting very paranoid all week,” and while the couple was in a McDonald’s drive-thru, his “schizophrenic episodes” came to a head. Only 12 minutes after his episode began, C de Baca’s lifeless body would be laid out on the ground in front of a Walmart, in shackles — killed by police.
The incident started as C de Baca thought someone was in the trunk of his and his wife’s vehicle. So, to humor him, his wife got out to open the trunk and show him no one was there. However, instead of watching his wife, C de Baca moved his leg into the driver’s seat and slammed on the gas, ramming a car.
He then got out and ran to a nearby Walmart where he began acting irrationally and throwing things down on the ground.
“‘You are all murderers, you killed my kid’ and other things that didn’t make sense,” a Wal-Mart employee told police, describing the C de Baca’s breakdown.
Because of the Walmart’s central location to multiple jurisdictions, three police departments showed up. As one department tended to the wreck outside, two went inside the Walmart to apprehend C de Baca.
Body cam footage shows police bring him to the floor and place him in handcuffs.
“Stand up or we’re going to drag you out, one way or another,” an officer is seen telling the restrained man. At this point, police say C de Baca allegedly bit one of the officers on the leg — a move that would lead to this sick man’s death.
“A fucking bite mark, dude,” the officer is heard telling another on camera. “This cunt fuck bit the fuck out of me, dude. I had to punch his ass off of me.”
Officers then dragged C de Baca outside where they laid him face down, shackled his legs, knelt down on his back, and incorrectly placed a spit sock over his face.
“I can’t breathe,” he said.
“Anthony, what’s your date of birth?” the officer asked, ignoring the fact that C de Baca was suffocating.
“I can’t breathe,” C de Baca repeated.
“What’s your date of birth?” the officer asked again as his fellow officers continue to apply pressure to C De Baca’s back, slowly squeezing the air from his lungs.
“I’m dying,” C de Baca pleads, but his words fell on deaf ears as cops began making penis jokes.
“He hit bone?” an officer asked, alluding to the bitten officer’s genitals.
“Always with the jokes,” the bitten officer said, noting that the bite did not even break the skin.
The officers on the scene were still cracking themselves up, ignoring C de Baca’s pleas for help until they finally realized he’d gone limp under the pressure of all their knees and hands.
“Anthony,” one cop said as he pulled at C de Baca’s arm. “Anthony.”
“Fuck,” another cop said.
Ben Anthony C de Baca was dead.
“You alright?” the callous cop asked his friend, entirely unconcerned with the fact that they just seemingly killed a man.
“Yeah, I’m good, dude,” he answered. “I fucking hate when people put us in a position like that.”
“No, I’m asking are you OK,” the callous cop asked. “I don’t care about that,” he said alluding to C de Baca’s death. “Are you OK?”
As officers watched paramedics unsuccessfully attempt to revive C de Baca, they were seen fist bumping, entirely unconcerned that their actions or the actions of their colleagues had led to the death of a mentally ill man.
“He’s telling him essentially that Mr. C de Baca has passed, and he’s like ‘I don’t care, I’m asking how you’re doing,’” Ahmad Assed, a lawyer for C de Baca’s family, told The Daily Beast. “It’s really telling if you look at that particular part of the video.”
Assed told the Beast that they are planning a wrongful death suit against the police for the way they handled the arrest of C de Baca. Assed says the use of the spit sock was entirely unwarranted as C de Baca had not spit on anyone and was only alleged to have bitten an officer. A spit sock does nothing to prevent biting.
However, it did prevent C de Baca from breathing. According to an independent investigation by the New Mexico Medical Examiner’s Office, a spit sock, if ‘improperly placed,’ can suffocate a person. The examiner was unable to rule out suffocation as a contributing cause to the death a C de Baca.
“They used it in a different fashion than in the training I hope they received,” Assed said. “I doubt they received any training. If there was training, it certainly wasn’t consistent with how they used it.”
As the Daily Beast reports, the spit sock was mesh, with a “thick cotton portion,” a sergeant reported during an investigation into C de Baca’s death. During C de Baca’s arrest, the spit sock’s cotton had covered C de Baca’s “face, nose, and mouth,” while the mesh bunched up around his forehead, the sergeant told investigators, adding that “he had not seen a spit sock used in that fashion before.”
According to the department’s own manual on how to use the spit sock, “Deputies must guard against leaving the individual or allowing the individual to go to the chest down position as this could cause Positional Asphyxia.”
However, it was clear from the video they did not follow these rules.
“They placed it in a way that I believe wholeheartedly contributed to Mr. C de Baca’s death,” Assed said. “To place him on his face and place that spit sock on him, with three people on him, it’s ridiculous. It’s crazy.”
An investigation into C de Baca’s September 6, 2015 death was concluded by New Mexico’s Rio Rancho Police Department found no criminal intent by any of the three police agencies involved in the arrest.