A Louisiana grand jury chose not indict Lafayette Parish sheriff’s deputies Wednesday, regarding a March 2014 incident captured on surveillance cameras showing the officers suffocate a man as he moaned in agony that he couldn’t breathe, leading to his eventual death.
According to police, 30-year-old Robert Minjarez Jr. had been pacing back and forth erratically in front of a convenience store while his children and their mother were inside, before the store clerk reported his behavior.
Surveillance footage from the store shows three or four responding officers arrive and detain Minjarez almost immediately by shackling his hands and legs and pining him down.
The footage shows Minjarez’s lower body up on the sidewalk and his upper body below the curb as officers knee his face and sternum into the pavement.
Minjarez can be heard writhing in agony for about four minutes, as he screams “help me, I can’t breathe. You’re killing me,” before losing consciousness.
The officers notice hat Minjarez was unresponsive about a minute later. He was hospitalized for five days before dieing.
Watch the raw footage:
The Lafayette Parish coroner’s report says the main cause of Minjarez’s death was “compressional asphyxia due to face-down physical restraint by law enforcement officers.”
The report says several officers remained wholly or partly on top of Minjarez after his hands and legs were cuffed, and he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe.
The corners report does note that 70 nanograms-per-milliliter of cocaine was found in Minjarez’s system that could have served as a contributing factor to his death.
The grand jury said Wednesday, that after examining the evidence of the case that they “determined there is no evidence of a criminal act by the police officers who responded.”
The mother of Minjarez’s two minor children, Heather Scanlan filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit in March naming Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office Sgt. John Sullivan, Deputies Joey Graciana and Matthew Meginley and former Sgt. Jill Birkenmier; Scott police Officer Hayden Godeaux; and an unknown Carencro police officer.
Minjarez’s mother, Catherine Cortez, also filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the two children, but there has been no activity noted in the court record regarding either case.