Body cam footage released after Dallas police say man died in custody after cardiac arrest
Dallas police released body camera footage Friday and the identity of a man — described by the department as a “combative patient” — who died while in their custody.
Manuel Najera, 43, died Tuesday night at a hospital after officers responded to the 5100 block of Cardiff Street in southeast Oak Cliff to assist Dallas Fire-Rescue with a patient, police said in a news release.
Officers Corey Barnes, Mario Hamilton, Rachel Rice and Ronnie Stacy responded to assist about 10 p.m. after a family member called 911 saying Najera was “not himself and acting strangely,” police said.
Officers arrived at a house at about 10:08 p.m. and found first responders and a family member trying to calm Najera, police said.
In video footage the Dallas Police Department said it released as a matter of transparency, officer Rice’s body camera shows her arriving and being told by a paramedic that Najera is agitated and doesn’t live at the address, but up the street.
As the officer approaches the home, Najera is heard screaming and tells responders that his name is “Junior.”
Rice introduces herself and asks Najera if he’d like to talk. He seems to have difficulty speaking, and his responses sound frantic and winded in the video.
“Come take a seat for me, Junior,” she says. “You’re OK. We’re going to take care of you, OK?”
“Don’t do me like that,” he says. In the video, Rice repeatedly tells Najera that he is going to be OK, asks him to leave from the front door of the home and asks others to give him space.
When someone who says they are Najera’s brother grabs his hand and tries to pull him away, Najera begins screaming louder. Then, Rice asks the brother to step away, and several officers begin trying to handcuff Najera, who struggles and continues to scream.
Police said in their news release on Wednesday they used “minimal force” to handcuff Najera.
In body camera footage from officer Barnes, paramedics are seen rolling a stretcher up to the porch and putting Najera on it after he is handcuffed.
Barnes asks Dallas Fire-Rescue workers what is happening in the footage, and they say that someone called for medical assistance. In the footage, one says someone told them Najera acts that way when he drinks, another says it is cocaine and they initially believed the call to be for an overdose.
One of the responders says that when they arrived at a home up the street to check on Najera, he came out of the home and his brother said he had a gun on him. But the other responder said that when they checked, they didn’t find anything.
The responder says in the video that when they let him go, he ran to the other home down the street and started banging on the door, and he said he didn’t want anyone to kill him.
About 10 minutes after Najera was put on the stretcher and loaded into an ambulance, officer Hamilton got in with Dallas Fire-Rescue to take Najera to a hospital, police said.
Hamilton’s body camera footage shows Najera, who seems to have trouble breathing, struggling and kicking. A paramedic appears to tell another responder to start driving and that Najera is not going to allow them to check his vital signs.
Najera continues to kick, and the paramedic tells him to breathe and relax. The paramedic says Najera is biting his tongue and seems to be choking, then moves him to sit higher on the stretcher and says he’s going to “make himself pass out soon.”
Then, as Najera becomes quiet, a machine begins to beep and the paramedic asks another to come to the back of the ambulance.
Najera went into cardiac arrest, police said.
About four minutes after Hamilton got into the ambulance, he got out so that emergency responders could perform life-saving measures, police said.
In video footage, Hamilton gets back in the ambulance and responders tell him that Najera is not breathing before they start giving him breaths and chest compressions. The footage ends there.
Police said that at about 10:50 p.m., officers followed the ambulance to the hospital, where Najera died about half an hour later.
On Wednesday, the Dallas Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy and pending are the autopsy and toxicology results, police said.
Police said an ongoing investigation into the death in custody is being conducted by the Special Investigations Unit, and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office responded and will conduct its own investigation.
Dallas police said the Office of Police Community Oversight also responded to the incident.