According to the LA Times, Blanca Briceno, a resident of Los Angeles County, called sheriff’s deputies to help her restrain her son, who was having what the newspaper referred to as a “mental health crisis,” back in March. At some point, things went horribly wrong as, according to Ms. Briceno, the deputies tasered and beat her son Eric to death. At one point the law enforcement officers were said to have grabbed her phone as she attempted to record the incident.
Stories about alleged police brutality have been in the news recently, but the death of Eric Briceno has not, hitherto, been covered by the media. The sort of often violent street protests that often accompany such stories have yet to occur. However, the Briceno family. Including Blanca and Eric’s father, Juan, have filed a wrongful death claim, a precursor to a lawsuit. The LA County’s Sheriff’s Department is not commenting, claiming an ongoing investigation.
The sequence of events that happened that March night began when Eric, a man who had been diagnosed with mild schizophrenia and who had been self-medicating with “street drugs” and who had spent time in jail, had a fight with his father and then left the home. Juan and Blanca called 911 and, when the deputies arrived, they asked to be called back when Eric returned home.
Eric returned home, and his parents duly called the deputies. The law enforcement officers returned to the home and found the six-foot, 300 pound man sleeping in his bed. According to the parents’ account, the deputies used a taser and pepper spray to subdue Eric when he awoke, startled. Eventually, the deputies took Eric to the hospital whereupon he died within eight minutes after arrival. The medical examiner found that the man had methamphetamine in his system. The drug was not the immediate cause of death but contributed to it, the ME concluded.
One factor that may have contributed to Eric Briceno’s death is that a member of the sheriff’s Medical Evaluation Team was not present during the incident. The team is comprised of a licensed mental health professional who is trained to deal with people with mental health issues without resorting to violence. Such a trained professional might have been able to deal with Eric Briceno without killing him.
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