Human RightsNorth America

US police officers not charged over killing of young man in Louisiana





A grand jury in the United States has declined to indict police officers who held a man down with the officers on top of him although he said he could not breathe.

Thirty-year-old Robert Minjarez Jr. died five days after his arrest outside a gas station in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana last year.

The grand jury issued its decision on Wednesday. The officers’ names have not been released because grand jury proceedings are always secret.

The videos from a nearby store and from police car dashcams show at least three officers remained wholly or partly on top of Minjarez.

The man died because of “compressional asphyxia due to face-down physical restraint by law enforcement officers,” according to a report from the Lafayette Parish coroner.

The report says the suspect is heard in the audio pleading for help, saying “I can’t breathe.”

For about five minutes, the report said, Minjarez is heard on dashcam audio screaming, “Help! Help! Help me! Get off! You’re going to kill me!” The report also quotes him as saying “You’re going to suffocate…” and “I can’t breathe” three times.

An officer said told him, “You got 265 pounds on your back, you’re not going anywhere.” The suspect groaned “and no more sounds are heard from him.”

Minjarez cried and screamed, his voice becoming “increasingly muffled, hoarse and strained” while repeating “I can’t breathe,” the report added.

For months, the victim’s family believed he had died from excessive drug abuse.

“I can’t breathe” became a symbol for national rallies for protesters demonstrating the chokehold death of unarmed black man Eric Garner by a white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in New York City last year.

The chokehold death of Garner, a father of six and grandfather of two, was recorded on videos that have been widely seen and have contributed to the public outrage. In the video, Garner repeatedly told police officers “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”

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