Dashcam Video Shows Arrest of Man Who Died in Chicago Police Custody

Dashcam video showing the arrest of a man who died while in police custody last year was released by the city Friday while the FBI and other agencies continue to investigate what happened. 

Heriberto Godinez Jr., 26, died in police custody last July as officers investigated a possible burglary. Authorities at the time said Godinez, who they suspected was involved in the burglary, was “sweating heavily with labored breathing.” Paramedics were called but, despite medical help, Godinez became unresponsive. 

An autopsy determined he died of combined cocaine and ethanol toxicity, with physical stress associated with restraint being a “significant contributing factor,” according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

City officials on Friday released dashcam video of the arrest, saying the two officers involved have been placed on administrative duties pending an investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority.

“Now that IPRA has advanced its investigation to the point it no longer objects to the release of these records, the city is producing them as part of its new policy that increases transparency while also protecting the integrity of ongoing investigations,” city lawyer Bill McCaffrey said in a statement.

The footage begins with Godinez appearing to be on the ground in handcuffs. Two minutes into the footage, Godinez sits up and begins fidgeting. He continues moving before an officer pins him to the ground with his knee.

As Godinez continues to move, one officer puts his foot on his neck and head. Several other officers are also seen restraining Godinez before the video ends. 

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said the officers’ actions “are concerning.”

"As Superintendent, one of my top priorities is establishing a culture of accountability at every level of the police department, from top command staff to the rank and file,” Johnson said in a statement. “Holding each other accountable is a central piece to rebuilding the frayed trust between the department and communities we serve. The actions by two officers in the video are concerning, and as a result, I have removed them from operational duties pending the outcome of IPRA's thorough investigation."

FBI Special Agent Garrett Croon said the bureau was notified of Godinez’s death on July 20, 2015, and an investigation into what happened remains ongoing.

In addition to both the IPRA and FBI investigation, the Cook County State's Attorney's Professional Standards Unit is also looking into the matter.

"In addition to the autopsy report already issued by the Cook County Medical Examiner, the State’s Attorney’s Office has retained the services of an independent medical examiner expert who will be issuing a report," Sally Daly, director of communications for the state's attorney's office said in a statement. "We are unable to comment any further until that report is obtained and evaluated."

An attorney for Godinez’s family claimed the video was released to the media before the family saw it. Jeffrey Granich said seeing the footage is “killing the family all over again.”

Granich said he plans to file a federal civil rights lawsuit next week. 

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