Tyrone Awkward, 37, of Willingboro, died Nov. 6, 2005, after a confrontation with officers who were trying to arrest him specifically to take him to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation not because he committed a crime. The Eric Garner incident is a mirror of what has been occuring across the country for a very long time now, that is Police Officers choking Black males to death. Alot of people get in uproar about the shootings which are equally tragic, but alot of attention is not placed on those incidents that Tyrone and Eric both share. My heart goes out to both families as I know the feeling of being injured and oppressed by police and not able to get the proper relief because of placing that obligation in another’s hands, another in both cases being the attorney’s involved.
Before Eric Gardner it was Tyrone Awkward of Willingboro, New Jersey, a majorly African American Township in Burlington County New Jersey. The family sued over the Death of Tyrone but once again the forces of Jim Crow denied this African American family relief on the basis of misrepresentations and ignoring official misconduct. I would argue that one of the families mistakes was not filing criminal charges directly with the Courts for probable cause findings to be made against these criminals in police uniforms. This is another case where a Black family contacted to the police to control a family member and the police ultimately kill that family member in front of the family, knowing the man had mental disorders.
I take an interest allegation that appealed to me was that the Court found:
“With regard to the handcuffing, plaintiffs argue that but for Officer Valente’s inappropriate attempt to handcuff Tyrone, he never would have been armed with a weapon — the dangling handcuffs — and, therefore, his take down and the resulting struggle and death would have never occurred. Plaintiffs further argue that Tyrone was never a threat until Officer Valente decided to handcuff him, and that to absolve the officers’ use of deadly force based upon the very instrument applied by Officer Valente is a perverse and unjust result, and a constitutional violation. As a theoretical proposition, the Court agrees with *1919 plaintiffs on their second point. Any intent by a police officer to essentially plant a weapon onto an individual in order to justify the officer’s use of deadly force is clearly unconstitutional.”
It is interesting that in this case Officer Valente was accused by the family of planting the handcuff on Tyrone. This Officer claimed that he told Tyrone that he wasn’t under arrest. This same officer planted marijuana in my back pockets in 2002. He also fabricated traffic violations and an eluding allegation, then he falsified reports, falsified and Affidavit of Probable Cause, committed perjury during a Grand Jury Proceeding and during Motion to Suppress Hearings. If the family believes he planted the cuff on Tyrone for purposes of later claiming it was a weapon, I surely understand. This Officer remains at large operating under the Uniform of the Willingboro Police Department, he also was in the Military, in fact my speedy trial rights were violated to allow this guy to go overseas for a couple years, but back to Tyrones case.
According to Tyrone’s mother, when she came downstairs after retrieving her son’s hat, she saw that he was face down on the ground with three officers trying to restrain him. She heard Tyrone holler, “George” and “Naquia,” and “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” Tyrone’s sister and cousin also relate that they saw Tyrone on the ground with three officers piled on top of him, and that he yelled for George and Naquia. They also relate that Tyrone yelled that he could not breathe, which a neighbor and Hansen corroborate. His sister and cousin also state that as the officers and Tyrone continued to struggle, Tyrone was still attempting to pull away in order to breathe. Tyrone’s mother reports that during this struggle, two more officers arrived and joined in on the attempt to handcuff and restrain Tyrone. Tyrone’s sister and cousin state that they saw eight to ten officers all on top of Tyrone. *7
Taking these two versions of events and viewing them in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, this Court must determine *2424 whether the officers acted objectively reasonably in the following scenario: In order to control a 300 pound, 62, involuntarily committed, out-of-control, up-to-that-point previously non-violent, paranoid schizophrenic man, who had one dangling handcuff on his right hand under his face-down body, five12 police officers piled on top of him. That man then continuously and vigorously pulled-up and resisted being fully handcuffed, while repeatedly yelling “I can’t breathe,” until he became compliant, which was due to his lack of consciousness. Although this scenario presents a difficult case with a tragic outcome, the Court finds that these officers acted objectively reasonably in this situation.
None of the officers state that they ever heard Tyrone specifically say, “I can’t breathe.” They corroborate each other that only Officer Valente had at one point lain across Tyrone’s back in an attempt to secure the handcuffs.
Once Tyrone was under control and handcuffed, still face down, Sargent McKendrick asked Tyrone if he was okay, called his name, and tapped him on the back but received no answer. The five officers flipped him onto his back at the instruction of Sargent McKendrick. At this point, Officer Bucs observed that Tyrone’s eyes looked “glassy.” They all realized that he was unconscious. Officer Robert Parton then asked the other officers *99 to retrieve a respirator from one of their vehicles. Officer Robert Parton put the oxygen mask on Tyrone, while some of the other officers attempted to perform first-aid on Tyrone. Soon after, Tyrone was loaded onto a backboard and transferred by ambulance to the hospital. During transport to the hospital, an external defibrillator was used on Tyrone. Tyrone, however, was pronounced dead when he reached the hospital. Tyrone’s death certificate lists his cause of death as “Acute Congestive Heart Failure Secondary to Cardiomegaly with Foci of Fibrosis Concomitant with struggle with police,” which plaintiffs call “positional asphyxia.” The entire struggle from when Officer Valente applied the first handcuff to when Tyrone became “under control” lasted less than ten minutes.
See ESTATE OF AWKWARD v. WILLINGBORO POLICE DEPARTMENT