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New Bedford Police Sued Over Erik Aguilar's In-Custody Death

A wrongful death lawsuit is being filed on behalf of a New Bedford man who died in police custody, reports The Associated Press.

The 42-year old man, Erik Aguilar, was cuffed in a convenience store parking lot while being left face-down in July 2010. During that time, he stopped breathing and his heart failed. According to the lawsuit, police waited four minutes before administering CPR on him.

While a preliminary investigation indicated that alcohol intoxication was the cause of death, the officers' inaction is being brought into question.

According to New Bedford's The Standard-Times, officers left Aguilar handcuffed on the ground while they chatted away. Furthermore, while alcohol intoxication was the leading cause of death, the police restraint was a contributing factor, according to the District Attorney's investigation.

The lawsuit names five officers: Paul Hodson, Antonio Almeida, Damien Vasconcelos, Roberto DaCunha, and John Martins.

A wrongful death lawsuit is one which alleges a death as the result of another person's wrongdoing. It is typically brought by the surviving loved ones of the victim.

The wrongdoing can be through negligence or through intentional misconduct. In this case, the officer's conduct might rise to the level of gross negligence, in which their actions (or inaction) showed a depraved indifference to human life.

One thing that might hurt the officers' case is the fact that they knew the risks of placing a suspect face-down on the ground. Their police training taught them that the face-down position could subject Aguilar to asphyxiation, according to The Standard-Times.

Even more damaging for the officers is the internal police review, which shows that the officers had neglected their duties with regards to Erik Aguilar's in-custody death.

Currently, the officers remain employed by the city.

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