The family members of a mentally ill man who died after being forcibly restrained and hog-tied by police officers while paramedics on the scene stood idly by have made it one step closer to justice for their loved one.
A United States District Court judge denied motions by the Greensboro police officers and the Guilford County Emergency Medical Services paramedics involved to dismiss the wrongful death claim. The claim against the city of Greensboro was also allowed to move forward, although the claim against Guilford County was dismissed.
According to the complaint, police officers found the 38-year-old victim agitated and distressed in the early hours of Sept. 8, 2018, during a local festival. He asked the police to take him to the hospital, so officers placed him in a squad car and called paramedics.
Shortly afterward, the man’s agitation increased, and he got back out of the car. That prompted officers to force him down and apply a “RIPP Hobble” restraint to his ankles that effectively hog-tied his feet to his hands. While paramedics and officers looked on and body cameras were rolling, the victim cried out in pain, asked for help and stopped breathing.
It was later determined that the prone restraint contributed to the victim’s death. RIPP Hobble devices are no longer being used by the police department as a result.
Just the same, the police claimed that they were not using excessive force on the victim. The paramedics also denied liability for the victim’s death, saying, in essence, that the police were in charge, and they were merely bystanders.
Ultimately, the court disagreed, saying that the plaintiff’s case has enough merit to go to trial.
It can be difficult to pursue a wrongful death claim against local governments and police officers because they enjoy a rather broad immunity from claims associated with their normal job activities — but it clearly isn’t impossible. Often, the only real way for the families of victims of excessive force (or medical neglect, in the case of the paramedics) to obtain a measure of justice is to pursue their wrongful death claims in court.