HARTFORD (CN) - A long Taser firing coupled with head trauma killed a drunken 22-year-old who lay helpless - "unarmed, virtually unclothed and vastly outnumbered by police officers," his brother claims in a federal complaint.
Noting that Connecticut's chief medical examiner ruled the 2014 death of Jose Maldonado a "homicide," brother Wilson Ramos says the killing is "part of a national pattern of deadly violence against black and Hispanic civilians."
Police arrested the brothers in the wee hours of April 13, after his brother hit a car window and shattered the glass, according to the complaint.
Ramos says Maldonado, a recovering alcoholic, had too much to drink at their friend's house in East Hartford where they had been watching a boxing match, and that he was trying to Maldonado in the car and drive him home to their grandmother's in Manchester.
East Hartford police allegedly pepper-sprayed both men during the arrest, but allowed only Ramos to wash the pepper spray out of his eyes at the station.
Maldonado was immediately put in a cell, however, and he began to undress, planning to try wiping the pepper spray from his eyes with shirt, according to the complaint.
Ramos does not speculate why Maldonado continued undressing buts says his brother's pants were nevertheless around his ankles when the guards opened the cell to put Ramos in it at about 2 a.m.
Though Maldonado "stumbled over to the door and pressed it open," Ramos says his brother posed no threat.
"Rather than calming and deescalating the situation by simply placing Maldonado back into the holding cell, defendants entered the cell and severely beat, punched, tased, and brutalized Maldonado, including repeatedly striking Maldonado in the head and shoving Maldonado head first into the wall of the cell," the complaint states.
One officer than "fired his Taser directly at Maldonado's chest, near the heart."
A standard Taser cycle lasts five seconds, but the officer held the trigger on Maldonado for at least 20 continuous seconds," according to the complaint.
"Maldonado was not resisting arrest, his arrest had already taken place, and he was already in police custody," the complaint states. "The use of the Taser on Maldonado and the multiple blows to his head were unnecessary under the circumstances, and defendants had many viable, less-lethal alternatives in order to confine Maldonado to the holding cell."
Ramos says the officers left his brother "on the floor of the cell to die," ignoring his pleas for medical assistance.
When the officers finally checked on Maldonado after five minutes, he was unresponsive, the complaint states. Ramos says still the officers did not attempt to administer first aid.
"When the paramedics finally arrived at approximately 2:17 a.m., Maldonado was pulseless, apneic, and in asystole," the complaint states. Maldonado was allegedly pronounced dead at the hospital at 2:54.
"Defendant officers were indifferent to the risk of death their use of force had caused Maldonado, and to their obligation to provide immediate medical assistance to preserve his life," the complaint states.
Ramos says the cause of Maldonado's homicide, according to the autopsy, was "cardiac arrhythmia following precordial electrical shock and blunt injury to the head."
The Hartford Courant reported that it was the first time a stun-gun-related death was ruled a homicide.
The complaint goes onto allege cite 2013 statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that police killed at least 516 people in the United States.
Of those 516 people, 147 were black and 90 were Hispanic, Ramos says.
Since 2005, 11 of the 17 people who died after police Tased them in Connecticut were black or Latino, according to the complaint.
Ramos says East Hartford police used Tasers at a higher rate than almost every other Connecticut police department last year.
Information about the rate of Taser use by the department in 2014, the year Maldonado was killed, is not publicly available yet, according to the complaint.
Ramos wants punitive damages for civil rights violations, excessive force, discrimination, negligence, and violations of the Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendments.
The estate is represented by David Cohen of Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin and Kuriansky in Stamford.
The original letter of intent to sue was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.