A jury in Kern County, California has awarded $4.5 million in damages to the family of a man who was assaulted by deputies and suffered a fatal heart attack while restrained. The jury found that Kern County, the sheriff’s department and the four deputies acted negligently when attempting to restrain Jose Lucero. The decedent’s parents also recovered damages for the emotional distress they endured while watching their son die in the family home.
The circumstances surrounding Lucero’s death
According to reports, Jose Lucero was a recovering methamphetamine addict with mental health problems. On December 18, 2010, Lucero had a relapse and began making a series of delusional 911 calls claiming that a friend was being murdered. Deputies arrived at the Lucero family home and began a heated confrontation. Instead of treating the situation as a medical emergency, deputies tasered the decedent 29 times within six minutes. They also used pepper spray in the family’s home while the decedent’s parents watched the situation unfold. An autopsy found that Jose Lucero had methamphetamine in his system and died due to cardiac arrest. The county contends that Lucero died due to exertion combined with drugs, which caused an increase in his heart rate. In cases like this where the decedent’s character may be called into question and unfairly bias a judge or jury, a wrongful death attorney is one of the few parties who can help a family achieve justice.
After the settlement
All four officers are still employed by Kern County and have not faced any criminal charges. Representatives say that the force was justified and that the deputies acted appropriately. They contend that Florencio and Lilia Lucero are partially responsible for witnessing the events after deputies tried to remove them from the home. Mark Nations, the chief deputy counsel, said that the county has concerns over the amount of damages awarded in this civil case. Officials are already appealing the verdict.