The family are suing after he died.
Police in Texas are being sued by the family of a man who died after allegedly having his neck broken during an arrest.
Jorge Gonzalez Zuniga’s shocking mugshot shows a person’s hand holding his head in place, with a massive bulge in the back of his neck.
The lawsuit, filed by Zuniga’s mother against four Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Deputies, alleges “brutal, unreasonable and excessive force” led to her son’s death.
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On April 11, the 22-year-old father of one was attending an Easter barbecue at a friend’s residence at a trailer park, where he stayed all night and fell asleep in the yard.
In the early hours of the following morning, police were called to an altercation between two women in a different part of the park, who had nothing to do with Zuniga’s friend’s BBQ.
Seeing Zuniga asleep near the scene, officers woke him, and after learning he didn’t live there, told him to go home; the lawsuit claims he obeyed and started to leave, but the officers then decided to arrest him anyway for “violating the emergency management order and public intoxication” — two minor, non-violent misdemeanors (which would ultimately be dropped and dismissed).
During the arrest, the documents claim, Zuniga was tased multiple times, pushed to the ground, had his neck crushed, and was placed in handcuffs and ankle restraints. It claimed he was then intentionally tripped while shackled and tased again when he could not get up.
Despite having to hold his head up for the mugshot and his obvious injuries, the family’s lawyers said Zuniga was not offered medical treatment, and was instead thrown in the drunk tank.
After 21 hours in there alone, officers found him unresponsive.
He was finally sent to hospital; as well as being hypothermic and having a dangerously low heart rate, he was found to have a severe cervical fracture and swollen spinal cord.
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Despite multiple surgeries, Zuniga was left paralyzed from the neck down. He suffered multiple complications in the following weeks; on July 8 he suffered a heart attack, and died one week later.
“Mr Zuniga’s death was the direct consequences of the injuries and the lack of medical care by these defendants,” the lawsuit claims.
“Despite Mr Zuniga posing no risk of harm to himself or others, they initiated an arrest, and in the course of that arrest, used tasers and physical violence sufficient to crush his neck rendering him paralyzed. There was no need to use force,” it adds.
According to The Monitor, the arrest affidavit is light on details.
One of the deputies being sued, Steven Farias, wrote that while finishing their investigation into the fight between the two women, they “observed a hispanic male…lying asleep on his back.”
After waking him and telling him to go home, he said Zuniga started “walking around the mobile home park not knowing where he was going.”
While he didn’t go into the details of the arrest, he claimed Zuniga was “resisting”, before he “was finally handcuffed and transported.”
Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed the Texas Rangers are still investigating the incident.
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Per Daily Mail, a statement from the Sheriff’s Office states: “We are not in possession of the medical records required to confirm the cause of death.”
“Any allegation that a citizen’s rights have been violated is taken seriously and corrective action will be taken when justified.”
Zuniga’s mom, who is being represented by Thomas J. Henry Law, said the police “took my life away.”
“My son was my everything, my world. I carried him, I planned growing old with my son, and they just took him away from me.
“Only a mother can understand the pain of losing a son, but what most killed me was seeing my son not being able to move again, not being able to carry his son, and leaving this world with the simple wish of being able to eat again. Every day that I would see him in the hospital bed, not being able to move, would kill me.”
Zuniga’s wife added: “My husband and I were parents of a one-year-old baby – my husband didn’t deserve to be treated in such an unfair way. We only ask for justice because of the pain that my family and I feel will not be taken away.
“My husband was a hardworking man, and his son was his world for him. My son will not be able to know his dad, nor be able to call someone ‘dad.’ They took my companion – the love of my life. I only ask for justice in the name of my husband which is what he deserves and what he asked for before he passed.”
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