Bodycam video released after California man dies while in police custody
GRAPHIC VIDEO: Bodycam footage of Ernie Serrano arrest released
Riverside County Sheriff’s Department releases footage of arrest of a man who stopped breathing while in custody, later died.
Police body camera video released Monday by authorities in Southern California shows a violent arrest of a man, who later died, in a grocery store earlier this month.
Ernie Serrano, 33, of Jurupa Valley, Calif., which is east of Los Angeles, died after a Dec. 15 confrontation with Riverside County Sheriff deputies and a security guard at a Stater Bros. grocery store. The deputies were called to investigate reports of battery and assault with a deadly weapon.
Several minutes of store surveillance video show Serrano at a checkout line, possibly to purchase items, and walking around the area. A security guard confronts him and they appear to get into a physical struggle.
In a Tuesday news conference, Sheriff Chad Bianco said Serrano tried to take the security guard's holstered firearm before the altercation. The guard used a Taser and pepper spray on Serrano, but it failed to subdue him.
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Four sheriff's deputies arrive minutes later and appear to strike him with a baton and deploy a Taser as well. After pinning him on a checkout counter, a bloodied Serrano is heard saying, "Let me go" several times, according to police body camera footage.
They place a spit mask over his face. After one deputy says Serrano doesn't appear to be breathing, they put him on the floor and begin life-saving measures.
Bianco said Serrano was arrested the day before when his family called authorities after he was released from jail. They reported that he appeared to be on drugs. Serrano was arrested on suspicion of injuring two deputies and being under the influence of drugs. He was released the morning of the day he died.
The preliminary finding of the cause of death was acute methamphetamine intoxication that caused a fatal arrhythmia during his struggle with deputies, Bianco said. Toxicology tests showed Serrano was under the influence of methamphetamine, benzodiazepines and marijuana at the time of his death.
Humberto Guizar, an attorney for the Serrano family, said the position Serrano was held in contributed to this death.
"I think the sheriff thought that by showing the video of him struggling, that he was resisting and uncooperative… I think that hurts them more than helps them," he told Fox News. "They didn't follow their training."
The preliminary results also showed that Serrano had bruises on his right arm and stomach, most likely from being struck with a baton, Bianco said.
"There were no other indications of trauma and no signs of asphyxiation," Bianco said. "One major finding is that Mr. Serrano's lungs were twice the size as normal, indicating a drug overdose."
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Guizar blasted the deputies' actions, comparing it to George Floyd, who died after a police officer pressed a knee on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.
"Didn't these guys learn their lesson from George Floyd and all the protests?" he said. "This is manslaughter. They heard him say, 'I can't breathe.'"
Guizar said he will file a claim to obtain the police radio calls and videos related to Serrano's death. He added that the family plans to sue the sheriff's department and Stater Bros.
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