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‘I Can’t Breathe’ wrongful death lawsuit filed against Lansing Police officers, City of Lansing, family demands justice

Anthony Hulon died on April 11 as a result of positional asphyxia.
Published: Oct. 26, 2020 at 2:23 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - On Monday, attorneys from Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. announced they have filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of a man who died while in police custody.

The family of Anthony Hulon filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Lansing and the officers, they claim are responsible for using “excessive force” and “permitting collusive statements by involved officers.”

According to the lawsuit, Hulon, 54, died on April 11 after being handcuffed behind his back and pinned on the ground by Lansing police officers in a Lansing City lockup cell after being transported from Sparrow Hospital. Hulon had been arrested for domestic assault. According to the lawsuit, Hulon’s ankles were shackled and he was forcefully held down by three officers.

The late Hulon’s mother, Joan Hulon, is frustrated after her son’s death was ruled as a homicide, according to the Ingham County Medical Examiner’s Office.

“They all should be charged for murder. I mean, they murdered him. They literally killed him,” said Joan Hulon.

Anthony’s sister, Heather Hulon, feels similarly.

“There were four of them. They already had him shackled by the feet - shackled by his hands and there was nothing that he could do to them. You know, he’s yelling in pain. It was clear and then they just continued... it’s just not right,” she said.

The family’s attorney Jennifer Damico says before Hulon was in police custody, he was admitted to Sparrow Hospital for being under the influence of methamphetamine.

Damico says that even if he was on drugs, he should have never been treated like that.

“Why did you need to hold him down like that...three minutes after his last movement. You’re still on top of him. Like what goes through your mind?" Damico said. "Like, I think it’s like this group mentality feeling like you’re all - no one could just - why couldn’t one of you stopped each other? Why couldn’t you just stop and think? I just don’t understand it.”

Officers Gary Worden, Charles Wright, and Trevor Allman were captured on video pinning Hulon to the ground on his stomach and chest, the lawsuit states According to the family’s attorney, the action compressed his lungs and restricted his ability to breathe for over five minutes, even as Hulon moaned in agony, and repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.” According to medical records, Hulon suffered cardiac arrest and an anoxic brain injury.

The Ingham County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the manner of death as homicide and cause of death as positional asphyxia.

Buckfire Law trial attorney Jennifer Damico, the lawyer representing Hulon’s family, said their 30-page civil action filed in the Western District of Michigan will continue an important discussion on the “ongoing problem of police brutality.”

“This isn’t the first time this has happened in the Lansing City Jail, in the same cell nonetheless,” said Damico. “This department knows better and knows about the risks associated with positional asphyxia. It shows that this department turned a blind eye to the rights of citizens and has learned nothing from prior incidents.”

Michigan State Police recommended criminal charges be filed by the State of Michigan Attorney General against the four officers. The matter is still under investigation.

The lawsuit comes five months and one day after the death of George Floyd, whose death in police custody sparked massive protests against police brutality. Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was recorded kneeling on a handcuffed Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes as the man repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.”

“It’s tragic that we continue to see more and more instances of police brutality,” Damico said. “This department, once and for all, needs to be held accountable.”

The lawsuit seeks all permissible damages under Michigan law.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said “The City has not yet been served and cannot comment.”

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