2017 death of Columbus man in police custody now ruled homicide, family reacts

Crime

COLUMBUS, Ga (WRBL) – The 2017 death of a Columbus man whose family alleges he was killed by excessive police force.. has now been ruled a homicide.

The Arreola family says the last three and a half years of their lives have been nothing short of frustrating and terrible. Even with this update in Hector’s case it only takes a small part of the pain away.

We do want to warn you, the video shown is graphic.

On January 9, 2017 around 5 a.m., Columbus police respond to a call in the 700 block of Moss Drive about a man needing help. That man was Hector Arreola.

News 3 obtained a copy of this police body cam video from an attorney representing Arreola’s family. News 3 also has the 911 call that started the incident.

The dispatcher says “You said your life is being threatened?” Arreola responds “Yeah, I feel like I’m in danger right now.”

The body cam video shows Arreola facedown and handcuffed in custody and what witness say was a struggle between him and the officers.

Arreola can be heard on camera saying “Stop! Stop! I’m doing even doing anything. MA, THEY’RE GOING TO KILL ME!” Then, as his mother looked on, he gave up.

While he was in custody, he cried out “I can’t breathe” 16 times while two officers subdued him. On the video, one of those officers says he weighs about 300 pounds. After eight minutes of lying on the ground under the officers, Arreola stopped moving.

Officers checked Arreola’s pulse after the struggle and claimed there was a pulse.

When EMS arrived, they placed an automatic external defibrillator (AED) on him. One officer asked another officer if Arreola coded. The officer responded “Yeah, its cardiac”.

Arreola is taken to Midtown Medical Center where he dies the next day. A hospital drug test would later reveal Arreola was under the influence of methamphetamine when arrested.

After three and a half years, his family is grieving.

“I can’t sleep at night. I’m traumatized. You know every night I wake up and I relive those videos of him, his last moments,” Patricia Ragin, Hector’s sister.

Back then, a Georgia medical examiner ruled Arreola’s death was caused by methamphetamine toxicity. Now, almost four years later, a GBI medical examiner rules Arreola’s death was a homicide.

The official autopsy document changed to read “sudden cardiac death following a struggle with law enforcement including prone position restraint complicating acute methamphetamine toxicity.”

“We are very very relieved. It’s a huge victory for our family. It’s huge because it starts to get to the truth of what really happened that night,” says Hector’s father Rodrigo Arreola.

The three officers involved in the incident have not been fired or charged.

News 3 reached out to District Attorney Julia Slater’s office and have not received comment.

The GBI says the case is still open and with the DA pending review/decision on next steps. 

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