om the moment Los Angeles police handcuffed him, Jorge Azucena told officers he needed help.
"I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe," he pleaded. "I have asthma, I have asthma."
In the half-hour or so after his arrest late one night last September, Azucena said over and over that he was struggling for breath. Numerous LAPD officers and sergeants heard his pleas for medical attention but ignored them even as his condition visibly worsened.
"You can breathe just fine," one sergeant told him. "You can talk, so you can breathe."
Azucena could not walk or stand by the time officers brought him to a South Los Angeles police station for booking. So they carried him into a cell, leaving him lying face-down on the floor. He was soon unconscious. When paramedics arrived shortly after, Azucena’s heart had stopped.
The chilling account of how Azucena died is told in two reports made public this week. After a Times article last year on the circumstances surrounding Azucena’s death, the reports offer new details into the man’s desperate and futile attempts to convince officers his lungs were succumbing to what coroner’s officials determined was most likely an asthma attack.
Nearly a year after Azucena’s death, LAPD officials have not yet determined whether any of the officers involved that night should be disciplined for failing to summon help and, in the case of some officers, for lying to investigators. Nine officers and two sergeants are the subjects of ongoing internal investigations, while another sergeant under scrutiny recently retired, said Capt. Paul Snell, who commands the LAPD’s Southwest Division, where the death occurred. As is customary, prosecutors from the county district attorney’s office are reviewing the case to determine whether the inaction amounts to criminal behavior.
"There should not be any question that when somebody in custody is heard to say ‘I cannot breathe,’ the officers should promptly call for an ambulance," said Robert Saltzman, a member of the Police Commission that oversees the LAPD.
Through a spokesman, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck declined to comment.
it’s been a whole fucking year. smfh. this is what the nypd is going to try too. they are going to just try and wait us out. keep stalling and hope that we just forget about eric garner.