Steve August 20, 2020
phoenix-police-release-bodycam-video-of-man-who-died-after-being-restrained-on-asphalt

Authorities in Arizona released body camera video Tuesday showing the arrest of a man who died in custody this month after he was held on asphalt for several minutes in 100-degree heat.

The cause of death for the man, Ramon Timothy Lopez, 28, has not yet been determined, and multiple investigations are underway, the Phoenix Police Department said.

In surveillance video also released by the department, Lopez can be seen wandering around a strip mall parking lot northwest of downtown Phoenix on the morning of Aug. 4. According to 911 audio released by police, a caller said a man was sticking out his tongue, grabbing himself and looking at people’s cars.

“He’s acting kind of funny,” the caller said.

After officers arrived, Lopez can be seen running through a parking lot, across the street and into a convenience store, where, police said, he stole a drink and threw it at one of the officers.

Lopez then bolts again. Moments later, he tumbles onto the roadway, where three officers struggle to restrain him. “Roll over,” one of the officers says repeatedly in the video as they try to move Lopez onto his stomach.

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Lopez can be heard moaning. At one point, one of the officers says Lopez’s left arm seems broken. Another says he’s “code 237” — which police said is a code to describe illegal drugs, because the officer believed Lopez was under the influence of a drug.

Within a couple of minutes, Lopez is on his stomach and handcuffed. He remains there for about three more minutes while officers get additional restraints and place him in a police SUV, the video shows.

At about 10:40 a.m., when the struggle was underway, the temperature in Phoenix was over 100 degrees. According to the National Weather Service, blacktop in direct sunlight can top outdoor temperatures by more than 60 degrees. Second-degree burns occur at 131 degrees, according to the agency. It is unclear from the video whether Lopez suffered burns.

When officers checked on Lopez about one minute after they began driving, he was unresponsive, said Sgt. Mercedes Fortune, a police spokeswoman. Video shows the officers pouring water on his head and telling him to wake up.

“He has a pulse,” one of the officers says. “He’s fine.”

He was later pronounced dead at a hospital, Fortune said.

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David Gonzales, his brother, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. Gonzalez told KNXV-TV of Phoenix that “nobody’s perfect, but he didn’t deserve any of that.”

“They were on top of him with all their weight on the hot asphalt,” Gonzales told the station. “Who wouldn’t be fighting? He was fighting for his life, and he lost.”

Fortune did not identify the officers in the video, but she said they have served for 14 years, three years and 10 years, respectively. She said an internal professional standards investigation is underway, as is a homicide investigation.

“Conclusions about whether the actions of the officers are consistent with department policy and the law won’t be made until all the facts are known,” she said.

Tim Stelloh

Tim Stelloh is a reporter for NBC News based in California.

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