The family of a man who died after swallowing cocaine moments before being arrested is suing the city of El Monte and its Police Department.
In a lawsuit filed last week in Pomona Superior Court, attorneys for the family of Jose Luis Gaeta Cardenas, 26, said police used excessive force in arresting Cardenas on suspicion of cocaine possession.
Defense attorneys also assert that police violated Cardenas' civil rights and were negligent in not taking Cardenas to a hospital after suspecting that he had swallowed cocaine on March 17, 1994.
The suit was filed on behalf of Cardenas' father, Angel Cardenas Diaz, his mother, Teresa Gaeta De Cardenas, and his wife, Gloria Cuevas Calderon De Cardenas.
"I feel sorry for the family," said El Monte Assistant City Atty. Marvin Cichy. But Cichy said, "I don't think the city is any way responsible for his taking cocaine. (Police) did everything they could when they realized he was having problems."
In court documents, the attorneys for the Cardenas family said El Monte police officers peered through a bathroom window of a beer bar in El Monte and saw Cardenas ingesting cocaine. Cardenas, the lawsuit states, tried to swallow an unspecified amount of the drug before the officers could get into the bathroom.
In an attempt to get Cardenas to cough up the bindle of cocaine, the officers sprayed tear gas in his face and struggled with Cardenas, the suit says, then took him to jail rather than to a hospital even though they knew he had swallowed cocaine.
Cardenas died of cocaine and alcohol intoxication, Cichy said.
He said that when officers realized Cardenas was having physical problems they drove him to a hospital emergency room in a police car.