APRIL 1, 1999  

Jury Trial Nears Closing in Deadly Force Case

By Jason W. Armstrong

Daily Journal Staff Writer

        Riverside 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.
        Hayward's sister 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 dolls."
        "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.
        Coroner's officials 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 Hayward's demeanor.
        "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.
        Hayward's mother, 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 though."
        Closing arguments are scheduled for today.
 

 

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