Lawsuit: Texas Officers Ignored Pleas of Man Before Death

Texarkana Police Department

The mother of a man who died two years ago after his arrest following a foot chase has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against three Texas police officers, alleging they were “deliberately indifferent” as her son complained that he couldn’t breathe.

Keisha Boykin filed the lawsuit Sunday in U.S. district court in Texarkana, Texas, against three local officers on behalf of her son, Darren Boykin, who died on Aug. 29, 2019.

According to the lawsuit, officers Jerrika Weaver and Brent Hobbs, and their supervisor during the arrest, Sgt. William Scott, knew that Boykin was unable breathe and had asked for help, but they “deliberately chose not to provide medical care.” It says they had the duty and ability to call for medical assistance, but did not, and that Boykin died because of their “deliberate indifference.”

“It was clear that this wasn’t just someone who happened to die. It was someone who was complaining that they were in distress, that they needed help and they were in a situation where they couldn’t provide themselves with that care,” said attorney James Roberts, who filed the lawsuit along with attorney Scott Palmer on behalf of Keisha Boykin.

A police department spokesman, Shawn Vaughn, said the department couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

Texarkana College police, who initially confronted Darren Boykin, sent a custodial death report to the Texas attorney general saying the coroner determined that Boykin died of natural causes linked to complications of sickle cell trait.

According to the lawsuit, Boykin fled on foot after being confronted by Texarkana College police officers, who suspected him of theft. After running for about half a mile in the heat, he was detained and city police officers arrived.

At that point, Boykin was having trouble breathing as he lay handcuffed on the ground, and officers carried him to the patrol car, the lawsuit contends. According to body camera footage, Boykin had an Ohio driver’s license, and officers found he had a felony warrant in that state. On the footage, Boykin says he’d been in Texarkana for around six months.

The lawsuit states that Boykin repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, that his breathing was labored and that he said he was going to pass out before he fell unconscious in the back of the patrol car as Weaver drove him to jail.

According to the lawsuit, at one point, Weaver told Boykin, “You can’t call I can’t breathe after you ran forever and then you have felonies.”

At one point during the drive to jail, Boykin told Weaver: “Ma’am, I’m about to pass out.” Weaver tells him to “just lean against the glass,” the lawsuit says. He also told her, ”I can’t even talk.”

Eventually, Boykin leaned over and no longer responded to Weaver, the lawsuit states. He was unconscious when they arrived at the jail, and she pulled him from the car and began CPR.

He was then taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Roberts said Thursday that they are still doing research, but it’s his understanding that getting Boykin help when he first started saying he couldn’t breathe would have made a difference.

“If they would have just gotten oxygen for him, either by calling 911 straight to the scene or even driving straight to the hospital, then I believe his life would have been saved,” Roberts said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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