The family of a mentally ill man who died after an encounter with Whittier police filed a $15 million legal claim against the department Wednesday, alleging officers "murdered" him after being called to the scene for assistance.
Jonathan Salcido, 27, died at a Whittier hospital on May 4, shortly after the encounter with police that ended with officers wrestling him to the sidewalk. The attending emergency room physician noted "asphyxia" as the cause or contributing cause of death, along with head trauma and "traumatic" arrest, according to the claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit.
Requests for comment left with a Whittier Police Department spokesman and the city attorney's office were not immediately returned.
Jasmin Salcido said in the claim that she witnessed officers "piled on top" of her handcuffed son, with one officer "lying spread eagle on top of Jonathan's back." After she heard her son scream and turned to intervene, she was warned to "let the police do their job," according to the claim.
"My son is dead, and no one will tell me why," Jonathan's father Gary Salcido said during a news conference outside Whittier police headquarters. "He was vulnerable, sick, defenseless, and my wife asked for help. And instead of help, he was killed by the police, by the very people who are supposed to protect us."
The mother said Whittier police were aware of her son's condition. The day of his death, her son was scheduled to see his psychiatrist to treat the mental illness that he had lived with since age 18, she said.
His behavior became erratic, and she called police for assistance, as she had many times before, his mother said.
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Instead of helping transport him to the doctor's office, numerous responding officers wrestled him to the ground, handcuffed him, piled on top of him and "smothered him to death before his mother's eyes," alleged Dan Stormer, a Los Angeles civil rights attorney who is representing the family.
"This killing was created by police," Stormer said. "When a quarter of people killed by police struggle with mental illness, justice demands that the Whittier Police Department train its officers how to de-escalate encounters with people with mental illness, and justice demands that the officers who took Jonathan's life be prosecuted for their cruel excessive and unnecessary use of force."