California man screams ‘I can’t breathe’ 6 times in police custody before death

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The Oakland Tribune has released police body cam footage showing 51-year-old Hernan Jaramillo screaming, "I can't breathe" and "they're killing me" over and over while in police custody before dying.

The footage, from July 2013, was never released by the Oakland Police Department. The Tribune reports the department has not responded to questions about the incident, but that the Oakland City Council approved a wrongful death settlement of $450,000 last week.

According to The Associated Press, Jaramillo was initially detained by police after his sister called 911 around 1:40 a.m. local time to report "that an intruder was trying to kill her brother." Attorney John Burris, who represented Jaramillo's family in the settlement case, said officers were informed Jaramillo wasn't an intruder before he was placed in custody, the San Jose Mercury News reported.


Finding only Jaramillo, police arrested him after he "blocked efforts to investigate the incident and appeared to be having a mental health episode," the city of Oakland said in court documents.

Police then attempted to put Jaramillo in a squad car, but soon realized he no longer had his hands behind his back, officers testified.


At that point, responding officer Ira Anderson said he, "Grabbed (Jaramillo) by the shirt. I brought him away from the car…did a leg sweep and put him on the sidewalk."

Once Jaramillo was on the ground, the exact manner and length of restraint is unclear, the Tribune said. While officers said they held Jaramillo down by his arms and wrists, three witnesses said they saw an officer pressing a knee into Jaramillo's back.


In the video, the officers can be heard telling Jaramillo to "relax," but don't appear to respond to his pleas that he is in pain. "It's a give and take here," one officer can be heard saying. "If you start to relax, we'll start to relax."

Jaramillo can be heard screaming, "They're killing me!" at least 20 times in the space of four minutes; he yells "I can't breathe" six times.


At least six minutes pass from when Jaramillo last yells and when medics arrive and begin CPR, the Tribune said.

Paramedics said they found Jaramillo in handcuffs and nonresponsive, with vomit in his airways, when they reached him. He never regained consciousness.


The city's autopsy ruled Jaramillo's death multiple drug intoxication associated with physical exertion, but an independent pathologist hired by Jaramillo's family rejected the conclusion that drugs were at play, the Tribune reported. An officer in the video can be heard asking what type of drugs Jaramillo took. Jaramillo responded, "none."

"This man was at his house and the police come, and he winds up dead," Burris said.


The Alameda County District Attorney does not investigate in-custody deaths that don't involve shootings, the Tribune reported.

(h/t The Washington Post)

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.