Local Family Pursues Excessive Force Claim Against Columbus Police

"When Someone Says They Can't Breathe, It means They Can't Breathe"

The family of Hector Arreola tells First News they know all to well the anguish that George Floyd’s family is experiencing  now. They are angry too as they observe a vastly different response from officials in Minneapolis compared to what occurred here in Columbus where local law enforcement and city officials continue to deny any wrong doing. “My brother’s life mattered,” his sister Patricia Ragan said.

The 30 year old Arreola twice called police for help in the midst of a major panic attack prompted by methamphetamine use three years ago.  Responding officers initially called for medical backup but after several minutes made a move to arrest Arreola with his mother watching nearby. It’s a scene his family replays over and over. “Stop, Stop , Stop” police yell.  “I’m not even doing nothing, Ma they’re going to kill me,” Arreola says.

“Hector pleaded 16 times, I can’t breathe,” his dad recounted.  “He’s hurting, he’s hurting,” his mother tells officers on the scene that night.  “I can’t breathe,” Hector says before the police officer tells his mom “he’s fine, he can breathe”.  “Applying pressure for over 2 minutes after he was non responsive, handcuffed until he went non responsive. The third officer show on the scene with leg irons, shackles, shackled Hector and then continue to sit on his back for a few minutes for you know the Kodak moment,” Hector’s dad Rod Arreola told First News.

Three years after the incident, the family recently won a partial victory in federal court where the judge denied the officer’s immunity paving the way for the excessive force claim. But the family is demanding action now. “When someone says I can’t breathe, it means they can’t breath and you need to back off. You need to back off and let that person breathe. You just can’t take it for granted, oh he’s okay and they do that because they get trained on that it’s part of their policy when somebody says I can’t breathe uh, they can breathe. If they couldn’t breathe they wouldn’t be talking. That has to be abolished from the policy. We have to make that change not for this community but for the Country,” Hector’s dad said.

“Like Dad said, I asked Mayor Henderson to take a look at what happened to our family and take action because the Mayor we had at the time who is now running for Senate by the way didn’t do anything except for put out misleading information. You look at the videos of what happened to Hector and the videos of what happened to Mr. Floyd. They are just sickening. We can’t continue to have this happen in our Country. There is no reason for it,” Hector’s brother in law Jeff Ragan said.

“You know we hope and pray everyday something will be done and if we can tell our story and it helps somebody else, some other family then we’ve done our job,” his sister said.

For months and even years now the family told us they just wanted an apology , an ounce of compassion for Hector Arreola’s death.  Today they said they’re way past an apology.  They are demanding action and accountability from the Mayor’s office all the way to the District Attorney.

RELATED: Exclusive Body Cam Video: Encounter With Police Turns Deadly


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