The County of San Diego has settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $1.35 million with the mother of a Mexican National, Marco Antonio Nápoles-Rosales, age 29, who died after being arrested on Aug. 16, 2018, in Fallbrook. According to the Coroner’s report, Nápoles was under the influence of methamphetamine and there were eight officers involved.
“No amount is going to be enough to compensate for the loss of a loved one,” said Jesus Eduardo Arias, the family’s attorney, at a press conference Friday, Sept. 23, at the Consulte General of Mexico in Little Italy. He said Nápoles was going to school to become a barber and had no criminal record.
According to the original complaint, the plaintiff was dependent upon her son at the time of his death for the necessities of her life, including shelter, food and medical care.
Nápoles died after a struggle with local Sheriff’s deputies on Aug. 16, 2018, on the gas station property where there is also a Circle K. Nápoles had apparently arrived on the property between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and had been interacting with the prior shift employee, who according to the original complaint, had allowed Nápoles to charge his phone on her charger and even allowed Nápoles to use her phone.
Video surveillance showed Nápoles remained in the store for several minutes simply waiting for his phone to be charged.
Nápoles’s car, a Nissan Altima, had broken down several miles away and he had walked to the gas station and was trying to find someone to help him. When the new employee arrived, Nápoles was asked to stay outside the store.
The 911 call shows the employee reporting a person acting strange and possibly under the influence, but not of alcohol. They wished for that person to leave the property and possibly to next door to the park and ride.
According to the complaint, “At some point thereafter, the manager decided to call the police and report that there was a ‘Customer who was just standing in the store and not leaving after being told to leave.’ The call was received by a 911 operator who asked a store employee specifically whether the suspect had any weapons or anything? The employee replied that she was not aware of any.”
Deputy York responded. Nápoles was asked for his ID and he complied. The deputy told Nápoles he needed to leave the business property. The body camera footage showed the deputy suggesting Nápoles could go to the park-and-ride next door and wait.
Deputy York and Nápoles talked for about 20 minutes. Deputy York allowed Nápoles to use his cell phone (York’s phone) so he could call his friends or family to pick him up. One friend answered and it was reported that he told Nápoles that it was too early and he could pick him up later.
Nápoles was told again that he needed to leave the property. The complaint alleges Nápoles asked if he could stay near the gas pumps and Dep. York told him no, that he needed to leave the property. He apparently complied and Dep. York went back to his vehicle and waited.
Nápoles continued to come onto the property and was observed by Dep. York. Dep. York approached him using a raised level of voice and told Nápoles to take his backpack off while pulling Nápoles by the arm, according to the complaint.
At that time, a second officer arrived and assisted York in getting Nápoles to the ground. The complaint says that they were yelling to Nápoles, “Stop resisting,” but according to the complaint, Nápoles did nothing to prompt the use of force.
The complaint goes on to describe how a third deputy arrived who was apparently just driving by and decided to assist, and a border patrol agent was also driving nearby and decided to step out of his vehicle and approach the area. The four sheriff’s deputies were apparently placing their bodies on top of Nápoles and punching him and used taser guns on him at a very close range several times.
One deputy was using his taser on Nápoles in shooting mode and stun mode. Nápoles can be heard on the officers’ body cam footage screaming for help and asking the deputies to stop using the taser. All of these allegations are in the original lawsuit filed Dec. 3, 2019.
At least one body camera flew off in the struggle and couldn’t record the video but was still recording audio. Body camera footage was used from other officers and a bystander, who used their cell phone that was entered into evidence.
The complaint/lawsuit accused the deputies of unreasonable use of force, and after handcuffing Nápoles, getting him to the ground and tasering him on multiple occasions, they did not proceed to seek and provide medical care for him, but requested an extreme restraining device called a “WRAP.”
The body camera footage shows officers applying pressure with their knees and the complaint says they were using an air choke hold force technique, forcefully pushing Nápoles’s head and neck around the carotid artery using both hands with full force causing excruciating pain to Nápoles and obstructing airflow to Nápoles’ head and brain.
The complaint goes on to allege that Nápoles could not breath and literally yelled to the deputies “I am f…ing dying,” which can be heard clearly on the audio of the camera footage. He calls out several times for someone to call 9-1-1 and help him. They accuse him of biting one of the officers, and he denies it. They keep telling him to stop resisting. He lost consciousness moments later and was still restrained by the WRAP, even though he was unconscious, according to the complaint.
North County Fire Protection District paramedics arrived on the scene to treat one of the deputies who claimed to be bitten by Nápoles. According to the complaint, it was later found that the deputy had been bitten by a dog during K-9 training prior to the 16th.
The paramedics, according to the complaint, asked if they could evaluate the restrained unconscious man. After paramedics confirmed that Nápoles was not breathing, they were allowed to remove the WRAP and transport him to the hospital. The paramedics were able to bring Nápoles’ pulse back, but he remained in critical condition and was declared brain dead the next day.
The San Diego County Coroner’s autopsy determined that Nápoles died from sudden cardiopulmonary arrest due to methamphetamine intoxication and exertion during the struggle with deputies.
The deputies were cleared of any wrongdoing by the District Attorney’s office.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department wrote in an email that they were unable to provide comments for this specific situation. “But all of our deputies receive training in the Regional Academy on how to recognize when someone is under the influence of a controlled substance. This training also continues into their patrol field training when deputies receive additional real-life training as they contact subjects during the course of their patrol duties. They are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of when a person is under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol beverage. The deputies receive additional training through Sheriff's In-Service and patrol briefings.”
The Fallbrook Sheriff substation was called for comment although media relations is the proper channel for a response. The incident happened prior to the present lieutenant’s arrival in Fallbrook. Lt. Aldo Hernandez said he believes most of the deputies are not presently working in Fallbrook at this time.