From [HERE] Video of a 2015 death stemming from an arrest shows several Hayward officers sitting on top of a 42-year-old man, holding his head down as they attempt to place him in a restraint device.
Roy Nelson Jr. died that night , moments after whimpering and saying he couldn’t breathe. His death was ruled a result of physical exertion combined with methamphetamine intoxication, according to court records.
Several officer point-of-view videos of his death were publicly released through a federal lawsuit filed by Nelson’s son, who retained the services of well-known civil rights attorney John Burris. The suit against the Hayward Police Department names officers Nathanael Shannon, Matthew McCrea, John Padavana, Lloyd McKee and Michelle Hall as defendants.
The lawsuit still is in its pretrial stages, but in March a federal judge allowed excessive force claims against Hayward to proceed.
“Officers detained Nelson, who was mentally ill, pursuant to a 5150 hold and, while waiting for the ambulance to pick him up, restrained him in a prone position and continued to apply weight to his back even after he said he could not breathe,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim wrote in her decision. “Nelson was unarmed, handcuffed, restrained at the ankles, and suspected of no crime when Defendants made their decision to continue applying the WRAP device after he cried out that he was suffocating and after he lost consciousness.”
Kim noted in her decision that both sides claim the video supports their point of view but said the ultimate decision should be left to a jury.
Hayward police Chief Mark Koller did not respond to requests for comment.
The video shows an officer at one point dismissing another officer when she pointed out that Nelson had stopped breathing. A minute later, the officers agree that Nelson lost consciousness and stopped breathing but don’t begin lifesaving measures for more than five minutes.
Unlike most police videos, this footage was recorded by the officers’ Google glasses, not body cameras.
Melissa Nold, an attorney for Nelson’s son who works for the law offices of John Burris, called the video, “easily one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen on video.”
“This was a strictly medical call, not a situation where he was accused of a crime. They were there to facilitate a mental health call, and how he could end up deceased when he’s clearly not resisting is beyond me,” she said, later adding, “When a large-sized person is facing down on the ground, putting weight on their back can kill them. This is something police have been warned not to do for years.”
Attorneys for the city of Hayward wrote that Nelson wasn’t complying with officers’ orders, which gave them just cause to continue applying pressure to his back and head.
Nelson died in December 2015, after his ex-wife called police and reported he was going through a mental health crisis and hallucinating. The responding officers agreed and placed him in a mental health hold, putting him in the squad car without handcuffs on.
According to court records, Nelson — 6-feet-4 inches and around 300 pounds — had a history of schizophrenia and recently had spent time at a psychiatric institution. Officers have since testified that they recognized Nelson from previous contacts.
Police called for an ambulance, which was delayed for more than a half hour. While waiting, Nelson reportedly told an officer he wanted to die and started talking to his uncle, who wasn’t present.
According to police, Nelson then began kicking at the windows of the police car, from the backseat. So officers called for backup and ultimately decided to put Nelson in a full body restraint device known as a WRAP.
Police decided to move him to a nearby parking lot at Chabot College and called for backup, thinking it would be good to take him away from the ex-wife’s home before putting him in the restraint device. At least four officers are required to use a WRAP, according to court records.
The video shows officers yelling at Nelson as he sits inside the squad car, telling him to turn around so they can remove him. When he complies, they take him out of the car and instruct him to lie down. After briefly resisting, Nelson agrees and gets on his knees, then lies face down as several officers get on top of him and handcuff him.
After about 20 seconds of being on the ground, Nelson says, “I can’t breathe.”
Nelson can be heard whimpering as officers tell him to “stop resisting” and “relax” as they attempt to put him in the device. About two minutes later, he stops moving altogether.
One officer, Hall, has her hand on Nelson’s head. Attorneys for the city of Hayward say that was to prevent him from raising his head and also from hitting his head on the pavement.
“I don’t know if he’s faking it, but he’s not reacting … he’s not doing anything, guys,” a female officer, presumably Hall, can be heard saying. A few seconds later, she says, “I think he’s unconscious.”
“Is he breathing?” another officer asks.
“I don’t think so,” the woman replies.
“He’s breathing,” another officer insists, dismissively. But about a minute later, they roll Nelson over and acknowledge he’s unconscious. They then check for a pulse.
About five minutes later, the officers cut Nelson’s shirt off, and one can be heard saying he detected a pulse. About a minute after that, paramedics arrive and begin performing CPR. Nelson was brought to a hospital and declared dead later that night.
Nelson’s son, Roy Nelson III, said he’s affected by the loss of his dad every day and that it has soured his faith in law enforcement.
“But I’m glad it is getting put out there that my father called for help, he was actually wanting help,” Nelson III said. “I want people to know that even when you call the police for help, if you’re African-American they’re gonna put you in a different light, especially in Hayward, California.”