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Criminal justice experts have criticized the behavior of Louisiana police caught on tape effectively choke-holding a Black man to death while attempting to serve him a warrant for his arrest.
According to the Acadiana Advocate, experts say that the sheriff deputies involved in Armando Frank’s October 2017 death “needlessly escalated” the confrontation with too much force, and could be liable for negligence for failing to administer aid to Frank once he appeared to have passed out. Avoyelles Parish police had confronted Frank, 44, near a Walmart store while he was sitting atop his tractor.
In March, an Avoyelles Parish grand jury declined to indict the officers involved with negligent homicide charges. Frank’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit against sheriff’s deputies Brandon Spillman and Alexander Daniel, and Marksville Police Officer Kenneth Parnell in federal district court last month, according to KALB.
The video, which was obtained by the Advocate and posted in full to the publication’s website, shows police approaching Frank as he sits on his tractor. After telling him that there’s a warrant out for his arrest, Frank asks to see the warrant and who signed it. The police then tell him that they don’t have it with them, but that they can show him at the police station. (Police don’t have to present someone with the arrest warrant when they’re making a person’s arrest.)
They then begin to ask him to get off the tractor, but he refuses, pulling away from the officers as one steps onto the tractor, placing Frank in a chokehold from behind, and the officer with the bodycamera tasing him. When the officer recording the scene gets close to Frank, he can be heard giving labored breaths.
The officers and an additional third officer then trade off again between tasing Frank and placing him a chokehold. For minutes, they have him doubled over on top of the tractor, with the officer choking him leaning on Frank’s back. When he tells them, “Let me up, let me up,” the third officer begins pulling Frank down from the tractor.
They pull him to the ground and multiple officers take part in cuffing him. “He’s deadweight,” one of them notes, but the officers continue to drag Frank toward the back of a squad car, holding him up by all four limbs with his stomach facing the ground, and push him in. After he’s pulled to the ground, Frank’s shirt and sweatshirt are pulled over his head, covering him until he’s hauled into the vehicle.
Frank had a warrant for “simple criminal trespassing and attempted unauthorized entry into a dwelling.” He reportedly had a “dispute” with his neighbors and had been similarly charged before in 2016, but was given court-ordered veterans affairs treatment instead of prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office. Following Frank’s death, however, District Attorney Charles Riddle told the Advocate that Frank would be alive if “had he not resisted” nor was overweight with cardiovascular disease.
According to the Advocate, pathologist Christopher Tape found Frank’s death to be a homicide for “medicolegal purposes,” and stated that the officers “compromised” his breathing for more than six minutes by using chokeholds and leaning on his back. Tape said officers didn’t try to resuscitate Frank, and his report, based on an autopsy and the bodycam footage, was included in the Frank family’s lawsuit.
Reports show that Sheriff Deputy Spillman acknowledged he “grabbed Armando from behind, but never applied any pressure to the throat.” Avoyelles Parish Sheriff’s Office is still hasn’t come up with a policy on the use of chokeholds.
Across Twitter, viewers are reacting to the video of Frank’s violent arrest and death, saying he had a right to ask what he was being arrested for, and that the deputies involved did use excessive force.
Police claim they had a warrant. They did not. Armando Frank asked to see it. They did not. They choked him for six minutes and he died. They did not try to resuscitate him. There is video.— mistress misandry (@hannahtraining) August 3, 2018
A grand jury decided against charges. https://t.co/IYhsmRQMRD
RIP #ArmandoFrank Never answered this MANS resonable questions. So much is wrong here. I'll just end with this. #ImWithKap #Justiceorelse #Seperation in fact lets stop asking for justice and just Seperate and build our own. https://t.co/GQH1V0txtk— Tasty Creations (@Mellmacmenu) August 3, 2018
This case has not received the national attention it should. Armando Frank was black, unarmed and died after being choked to death by officers serving a warrant for trespassing. The video is horrifying. https://t.co/ILmbN3pDua— John Carpenter (@JKCTweet) August 2, 2018
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In 2014, Eric Garner died after a New York City policeman placed him in a chokehold while arresting him. Video recorded of Garner’s arrest showed him telling officers “I can’t breathe” 11 times, while first responders and officers failed to render Garner aid. Chokeholds are prohibited for New York police. The officer who used the move on Farner, Daniel Pantaleo, wasn’t indicted for Garner’s death.
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.