Jason W. Armstrong
Daily Journal Staff
police officers used the appropriate force needed to subdue a man who
died in part because of restraining maneuvers, an expert witness
testified Wednesday in front of a jury in the U.S. District Court. The
case has drawn public demonstrations protesting the use of deadly force
by the Riverside Police Department.
Robert Smitson, a
retired Los Angeles Police Department captain, told the court that
given the circumstances, it was appropriate four years ago for
Riverside police, in subduing Derek Hayward, to use a type of restraint
that causes a person to momentarily lose consciousness.
summoned police to a Riverside apartment Nov. 25, 1994, after Hayward,
30, locked himself in the bathroom and began tearing it up. Officers
have testified that the man, who was under the influence of
methamphetamine, resisted them and tossed them around "like rag
"From the evidence
that I've seen, they [the officers] did what they had to do to bring
the situation under control," said Smitson, who also teaches
courses at a Fullerton police training facility.
Hayward's parents, Paul
and Moira Hayward, filed suit against the city of Riverside and its
police department in 1996, alleging that the officers violated their
son's civil rights in using excessive force to subdue him, then failed
to give him the medical attention he needed to save his life. Hayward
v. City of Riverside, 96CV04132. The suit does
not seek monetary damages.
The trial, which began
March 22, has drawn the attention of the Riverside Committee for Police
Accountability, which was formed in response to the case involving
Tyisha Miller. Miller, a 19-year-old Rubidoux resident, was shot 12
times at a Riverside gas station Dec. 28 as she sat in her locked
vehicle with a gun on her lap. Police have contended that Miller
appeared unconscious, but that she reached for her weapon when they
broke one of the car's windows. Police and Riverside County prosecutors
are investigating Miller's death, and her family has filed a claim with
the city attorney's office.
Members of the
committee targeting police accountability staged a demonstration at the
federal court Friday, and have said they are pushing for a civilian
review board of the police department's use of force.
Riverside attorney John
Porter, counsel for the city in the Hayward case, predicted that the
controversy surrounding allegations of extreme use of force by
Riverside police in the Miller situation would have "little
effect" on jurors in this case.
"These are two
isolated, separate incidents, and jurors weren't questioned
specifically" about the Miller matter, the attorney said.
A controversial point
of the case is the manner in which officers subdued Hayward. Officers
used a "carotid hold'"- a method in which pressure is applied
to the carotid artery so that blood flow is restricted to the brain and
a person temporarily loses consciousness. It's unlike a choke hold,
which is simply used to cut off breath momentarily.
It was necessary for
the officers to use a carotid hold on Hayward because "you have to
be prepared for anything," witness Smitson said. "You never
know when he'll start fighting again."
The hold caused Hayward
to pass out. When he came to, he continued to struggle and was pinned
to the floor by officers, who put their knees on his back. Hayward then
stopped breathing, and officers testified that they pulled him out of
the bathroom and into the living room as paramedics arrived.
In testimony last week,
Hayward's sister, Toni Hayward Skane, claimed that paramedics showed up
five minutes after her brother's body was dragged out of the bathroom,
and that police would not let the man's fiancee, a registered nurse,
resuscitate him after she displayed her credentials.
have revealed that Hayward died of a combination of heart and lung
arrest, drug abuse, a fight and police restraining maneuvers.
Pasadena attorney John
Burton, counsel for the Haywards, said police had no reason to break
down the door and to provoke the scuffle that followed. He has also
criticized the officers' use of the carotid hold to subdue Hayward,
suggesting that such a hold on a person under the influence of
methamphetamine would subject him to greater risk.
But Riverside attorney
Porter said officers "acted as they had to" because of
"He was off the
deep end when the officers got there," Porter said at the
conclusion of Wednesday's hearing in front of Superior Court
Commissioner Virginia Phillips.
Moira, said her son's death has left a lingering effect on the family.
She and her husband, both in their 50s, have been left to rear
Hayward's three young children.
"I feel that the
officers were wrong in what they did to my son," Moira Hayward
said. "I don't want another mother to go through what I've gone
Closing arguments are
scheduled for today.