A Chicago-area man who became entangled in the body of a pair of officers during his arrest will receive $5m, a settlement announced Monday says.
Police said Tomie Sierra was killed while five officers were arresting him in Cook County last July for alleged possession of crack cocaine. The 42-year-old father of three was taken to a hospital where he died the following morning. Sierra’s family claimed he died after being kicked and restrained with handcuffs. They filed a federal lawsuit that alleged excessive force.
The police officers were not named in the lawsuit. Authorities initially did not release the officers’ names but did say Sierra’s handcuffs had been “physically removed” after he refused to put them back on during the arrest.
The Chicago Tribune reported on Monday that the Cook County state’s attorney’s office would investigate the incident and no charges were filed against the officers.
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Sierra’s death came amid a contentious national debate over police-involved shootings and the use of force. It also came just months after the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old mother of two by a rookie police officer.
Last summer, Sierra’s death made national headlines as video of his arrest showed five officers standing around in a row. When a sergeant removed Sierra’s handcuffs to free him, he became tangled in the officer’s back and fell to the ground. A medical examiner found that Sierra died from positional asphyxia.
Sierra’s death was the first time an officer was injured during an arrest in Cook County. The county’s top law enforcement official, Gene Roy, apologized to Sierra’s family. “My sincere condolences,” Roy said. “When you deal with large groups of officers, it is very likely some of them will be less careful and their actions could potentially have dire consequences. We apologize to the family for the tragedy that happened to them.”
Sierra’s widow, Joannie, released a statement through the family’s attorney, Michael Mozart, saying: “While the family will never ever see Tomie again, I’m alive and so is my son. A tragedy has been averted.”