How does a DUI arrest lead to lethal choke hold?

How does a DUI arrest lead to lethal choke hold?


Warning: This video is graphic and contains disturbing images.

How does a DUI arrest lead to lethal choke hold?

ProPublica released this disturbing video of Vachel Howard, a man arrested for DUI, that died hours later while in police custody. Vachel Howard’s death on June 4, 2012, was caught on surveillance tape inside the LAPD. The choke hold administered by one of the officers is listed as one of the causes of death.

CNN reported, “Howard was unarmed, prone on the floor, and being swarmed by five officers when one applied the controversial restraint, according to court records, police commission files and video surveillance footage from inside the police department’s 77th Street Station jail.” The Los Angeles City Council Committee agreed to pay Howard’s family close to $3 million dollars to settle the case in connection with his death. [CNN. October 6, 2015. “L.A. OKs $3M payment to family of victim who died in police custody” retrieved via]

The hold occurred after Howard told officers he was a paranoid schizophrenic and off of his medications. Officers reported an “off camera” struggle with Howard. While Howard is down on the ground, officers in the video can be seen smiling even though Howard is unresponsive. Vachel Howard went from being arrested for a DUI to dead in a few short hours.

“A coroner listed three causes of death for Howard: cocaine intoxication, heart disease and the chokehold used by officer Juan Romero. Romero was suspended for 22 days, but prosecutors decided not to press charges against him.” [Democracy Now. August 19, 2016. “Video of Man’s Death in LAPD Custody Surfaces After 4 Years” retrieved via]

According to, in 2015 the cause of death of people killed by police breaks down as follows:

1019 were killed by shooting
40 were killed by a vehicle
55 people were killed by police due to “rough handling”
36 were killed by a taser and 57 by “other” methods (not defined)

Cause of Death of People Killed by Police in 2015

Cause of Death of People Killed by Police in 2015 | Graphiq

What is a choke hold?

Eric Garner death on July 17, 2014, in Staten Island, New York, was caught on tape after being placed in a police chokehold, pleading for air, and finally uttering, “I can’t breathe.

How does a DUI arrest lead to a lethal choke hold?

The case of Vachel Howard is not new, but it does highlight a national debate. Is the chokehold a type of maneuver that officers should employ? If someone has been arrested because of suspicion of intoxication might there be a better way to neutralize them since their judgement may be clouded?

Do the benefits of the choke hold outweigh the risks?

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Darren Kavinoky
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