LAS VEGAS (AP) — The death of an unarmed man after police squeezed his neck during a struggle to subdue him outside a Las Vegas Strip casino raised questions Monday about the risks of the technique designed to restrict the flow of blood to the brain.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, which led a push for use-of-force reforms after Las Vegas police were involved in 25 shootings in 2010, will seek a review of the training that allows officers to use what the department calls “lateral vascular neck restraint,” ACLU executive Tod Story said.
“We’re aware that they use this. But there has got to be another option,” Story said. “There have been people in custody who have died. It really should no longer be used.”
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said there will be a public use-of-force review to air the findings of the investigation of the death early Sunday of Tashii S. Brown, 40, of Las Vegas.
The county coroner said a ruling is pending on what killed Brown.
Brown, who also used the name Tashi Sebastian Farmer, grew up in Hawaii and lived in recent years with his mother in Las Vegas, said Tynisa Braun, a cousin in Honolulu. Brown was a father of two children in Hawaii and had a business in Las Vegas selling shoes, hats and clothing, she said.
Brown’s mother didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment.
Las Vegas police scheduled a Wednesday news briefing about Brown’s death and refused to release any information beyond a written statement issued Sunday. The officers involved were not immediately identified, and it wasn’t clear if they remained on-duty while the department investigates the death.
The statement said Brown acted “erratic,” approaching two police officers inside The Venetian resort, claiming people were chasing him, and then running through a secured area to an outside door.
The officers chased him into a parking area at the rear of the hotel, where an officer used a stun gun and fists in a fight to subdue him. Venetian security guards also joined the struggle, police said.
A police officer squeezed Brown’s neck from the side before Brown lost consciousness, according to the police account. It said officers began CPR, but Brown was pronounced dead at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the fatal struggle was captured on security video. A Venetian spokesman, Ron Reese, referred questions to police.
Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York police officer who is a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said police in New York are taught not to use any kind of chokehold.
“NYPD doesn’t want you going for the neck under any circumstances,” said O’Donnell, who recalled the public outcry about police use of force after the July 2014 death of Eric Garner in Staten Island.
A passer-by with a cellphone recorded the 43-year-old Garner calling out, “I can’t breathe” while officers pinned him to the sidewalk in an apparent chokehold while trying to arrest him for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
O’Donnell called it harder than it looks to handcuff a person who resists arrest, but said reaching for the neck can be dangerous.
“Carotid artery versus airway. There are a lot of variables, including the competence of the officer, the condition of the person, mental health issues, whether they’re a smoker, alcohol (use),” O’Donnell said. “In the midst of a violent interaction, it’s different from doing it in a classroom.”