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15 May, 2017 16:57

Civil rights group calls for end to cop chokeholds after Nevada man dies in custody

Civil rights group calls for end to cop chokeholds after Nevada man dies in custody

A Nevada civil rights group wants to prohibit police from using chokeholds after a Las Vegas officer killed a man who was allegedly “acting erratic” at a hotel with a move designed to render the recipient unconscious without restricting air.

The brand of chokehold in question – a blood choke, or a Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint (LVNR) technique, in sanitized police vernacular. A LVNR is designed to compress the carotid arteries in order to render the subject unconscious within seconds without obstructing the person's trachea, or airway.

Early Sunday morning, two officers with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department were approached by a yet to be identified man inside The Venetian hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip. The unarmed man was "acting erratic" and told police people were chasing him. He then ran off, with the unidentified officers in pursuit, according to a police news release.

Outside The Venetian, the man reportedly attempted to open a pickup truck, but was unsuccessful. At this point, one officer shot him with a Taser. Though the Taser shot had "immediate effect," according to police, "he was able to overcome the neuromuscular incapacitation and fight with officers despite the attempts made to take him into custody."

As the encounter escalated, one officer punched the man multiple times and put him in an LVNR to immobilize him. The man then lost consciousness, prompting officers to begin performing CPR on him, the police release said.

The man was then taken to a nearby hospital, where he died about 45 minutes after he had first approached police.

LVNR is not considered deadly force by the Las Vegas Police Department, which trains most of its officers in the technique. Yet, Sunday's death is enough for the department to outlaw the hold, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada, Tod Story, said.

“The incident of a man dying in police custody today is one more reason why the use of choke-hold practices must stop,” said Story, according to KSNV. “Too many people have died as a result of this type of excessive force and too many questions remain about the use of choke-holds by our police," he added.

The local coroner's office has yet to release the official cause of death in the case, but the Metro’s Force Investigation Team & Critical Incident Review Team has begun an investigation into the matter, according to police.

More than 500 US law enforcement agencies use the LVNR technique, which was first employed by American policing agencies in 1970, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

The LVNR technique was most infamously used on Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. In July 2014, Garner was approached by New York City police officers for selling loose cigarettes. As the confrontation escalated, NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo put Garner in the hold. Garner later died at a nearby hospital. The medical examiner’s office later determined that the chokehold had been the main factor contributing to Garner’s death.

A video of the encounter filmed by a bystander later sparked nationwide outcry, but a grand jury chose not to indict Pantaleo in the case.