In one of the most disturbing videos to have emerged from the drug war, a dashboard camera has caught police officers in Louisiana using force on a man who was trying to put a small bag of white powder in his mouth. The man died a short time later at the scene.
A person who answered the phone at the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office confirmed that the dash-cam video is authentic. A spokesman, though, wasn't immediately available.
The man was apparently attempting to avoid arrest by swallowing the drugs he had on him.
In the video, an officer can be heard repeatedly shouting "spit it out," while he is shown trying to force the man's jaw open. An officer later is heard describing what they found in his mouth as a "plastic bag with white powder."
"Is he breathing?" one officer can be heard asking, after several minutes of attempting to force open his mouth.
"I don't know," says another.
The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office later said that the officers actions were warranted. "He was appropriate in his actions. He followed departmental protocol in trying to arrest a subject who tried to resist," Chief Deputy Jason Ard told local reporters. [See below for updates.]
Watch the video to see what passes for appropriate:
UPDATE: The Huffington Post spoke with Chief Deputy Ard and asked him about the incident.
"It's not a broken neck," he said. "It was a fractured hyoid bone, which is a small bone in your throat. That's a big difference if you think about it."
Ard said the coroner is expected to say that the cause of death was "basically...his heart condition with the methamphetamine that was found in his system, also ... If your hyloid bone is fractured that doesn't kill you."
HuffPost: "Any regret that this ended in a death?"
"Well, there's no regret. To say there's a regret -- I mean, we regret that someone lost their life, yeah, but the officer was reasonable in his actions. He was trying to arrest someone who didn't want to be arrested. And he was resisting arrest. Are we in a country now where from now on when people don't want to go to jail we just allow them to walk away?"
HuffPost: "It seemed more to me that he was resisting handing over the little baggie of powder. It seemed he was willing to get arrested; he just didn't want to open his mouth."
Ard: "Why would he not want to hand over the powder or substance?"
HuffPost: "Probably didn't want to get arrested, I guess."
Ard: "Thank you. I mean, it all runs together. Everybody's entitled to their own perception, don't get me wrong. You're looking at the video and you're entitled to your own perception. This is not a Rodney King beating, so to speak. This guy -- this deputy did not take his Mag Light out, which was in his back pocket. He tried to use chemical spray. He tried to do everything he could to restrain someone who physically resisted him and continued to disobey his verbal campaigns and you can hear him on it very plainly on the video telling this guy what to do, all he had to do -- lay on your belly and stick your hands flat in front of you and it's done. I didn't see anything that he did -- and we watched this over and over -- and at the end, you see at the end of the video they immediately go into CPR mode as soon as they realize he's having trouble."
HuffPost: "Does this make you reflect at all on the drug war itself, the fact that this guy died over a teaspoon of some drug?"
Ard: "Yeah, it just shows you how desperate some people can be for something, like what we believe to be a bag of methamphetamine. We know that we have a drug problem throughout the world, not only with methamphetamines or cocaine or a prescription medication -- we have it and we do everything we can to deal with it. And these officers who walk the beat on a daily basis do everything they can to keep the streets safer. So short of ignoring the fact the guy was driving under the influence and could go down the road and kill somebody, short of the fact that this guy could've just been let go because he just didn't want to go to jail and didn't want you to get what he had in his hand and we just said 'Okay, you can go.' I mean, where do you draw the line at? ... This was one of those deals where you can see it for yourself. We released it. It's from the start to the finish. The deputy did everything he could reasonably in a reasonable fashion to try to take him to jail.
"He wasn't trying to choke him, he was trying to stop him from swallowing evidence which could potentially kill him."