The family of a man who died after being held down by Antioch police officers has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the police department.
According to the lawsuit filed last week, Rakeem Rucks called 911 on June 25, 2015 to report that he was experiencing hallucinations, but when police arrived, they handcuffed him and held him down in the dirt while he cried out that he couldn’t breathe.
The lawsuit says an eyewitness heard Rucks crying out, "I can’t breathe,” much like Eric Garner, who died in July 2014 after being placed in a chokehold by arresting officers in Staten Island.
Attorney John Burris filed the case in Martinez Superior Court on Friday on behalf of Rucks’ four surviving children and his mother. The children, all minors, are identified only by their initials in court documents.
Despite Rucks’ obvious psychological and physical distress, the officers swept his feet out from under him as he was marched in handcuffs to a patrol car, the case says, noting that Rucks had complied with orders.
"The officers continued to smother Mr. Rucks, until he took his last breath and died face down in the dirt," the plaintiffs' attorneys wrote.
The Antioch Police Department said its policy is not to comment on pending litigation.
The case names the city of Antioch, a police sergeant, a detective and three officers, and claims that Rucks died because of how four officers held him down with their knees in his back and neck, forcing him to inhale dirt and restricting his breathing.
It also says that Detective Brian Rose didn't tell a coroner's inquest jury about witnesses who heard Rucks protest loudly that he couldn't breathe. Coroner's inquests are held for all in-custody deaths in Contra Costa County.
A coroner's report said toxicology tests found amphetamine, methamphetamine and THC in his bloodstream.
"Detective Rose fully intended to omit key contradictory eyewitness information for the purpose of concealing Decedent Rucks’ true cause of death at the hands of City of Antioch Police Officers," the lawsuit says.
In February a jury found that his death of cardiac arrest was an accident.
When the jury returned its verdict in February, Rucks' mother, Debra Moore of Vallejo, blamed police for his death, insisted that her son did not pose a threat to officers, and claimed they shocked him with a stun gun, according to the East Bay Times. The current case does not mention a stun gun.
Rucks was known to local law enforcement. In 2013, the Antioch department issued a press release reporting that he was arrested after a chase following an alleged domestic violence incident.
The case alleges battery, assault, negligence and violation of federal and state civil rights and seeks general, special, statutory and punitive damages.