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LAPD sergeant broke policy by kneeling on neck of NBA player Jaxson Hayes during arrest

VIDEO | 03:05
Video shows Jaxson Hayes demanded warrant before shoving LAPD officer

Video released last year of Jaxson Hayes’ arrest shows the NBA player arguing with LAPD officers about entering a Woodland Hills home without a warrant, then pushing one against a wall before police take him to the ground.

An LAPD sergeant violated department policy by kneeling on the neck of NBA player Jaxson Hayes while arresting him in response to a call about a domestic dispute last July, the Los Angeles Police Commission ruled Tuesday.

After Hayes, a 6-foot-11 center for the New Orleans Pelicans, was taken to the ground by police outside a Woodland Hills home, Sgt. Darren Holst began kneeling on his neck.

Hayes shouted, “I can’t breathe,” and another officer used a Taser on him twice, hitting him once in the chest, LAPD Chief Michel Moore wrote in a report released after the Police Commission’s weekly meeting Tuesday. Commissioners agreed with the chief’s findings that the knee-on-the-neck maneuver went against department protocols but that the use of the Taser was justified.

In reaching his conclusion, Moore cited a use-of-force review board investigation, which found that Holst twice put his knee on the basketball player’s neck, first for four seconds, and then for 11 seconds. Moore wrote that the sergeant’s tactic “resulted in unintentional but direct pressure to Hayes’ trachea or windpipe” — though not with enough force to render Hayes unconscious.

Intentional or not, Moore said that he agreed with the board’s finding that “an officer with similar training and experience as Sergeant Holst, in the same situation, would not reasonably believe that the applying direct pressure to the trachea or windpipe was proportional, objectively reasonable, or necessary.”

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An email to Hayes’ attorney seeking comment went unreturned Tuesday.

LAPD officials have so far released few details about three fatal police shootings in the last week.

The officer who deployed the Taser, Frank Duarte, later told investigators that when he heard Hayes shouting for air and noticed Holst kneeling near Hayes’ neck, he asked Holst to get off, according to the report. Hayes then began trying to stand up again, and Duarte fired the Taser into his chest, said the report, quoting Duarte.

Moore wrote that he agreed with the review board’s finding that Duarte’s use of the Taser was justified, given Hayes’ “level of resistance.” He further said the fact that the officers present weren’t wearing masks as was required at the time of the arrest will be addressed “at the divisional level.”

The Police Commission’s votes Tuesday were unanimous, with one commissioner absent.

New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes dribbles a basketball during a game
New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes pleaded no contest this year to misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment and resisting an officer in connection with the Woodland Hills incident last July.
(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

Police had responded to the Woodland Hills residence, which was initially described as Hayes’ home, on July 28, 2021, after his girlfriend’s cousin called 911 to report that Hayes was being “loud and violent” and that his significant other was scared.

When officers arrived, however, Hayes and the woman who called police told them that the situation had been defused.

The officers told Hayes to wait outside while they talked to the woman, but he demanded to see a search warrant and asked why he couldn’t go inside. As the argument escalated, an officer told Hayes he was going to be detained, and two officers tried to restrain him.

Hayes spun and pushed one of the officers into a wall near the home’s front door, according to video of the incident released last year by the Los Angeles Police Department. The officer suffered an unspecified elbow injury, police said.

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As a result of the incident, Hayes, now 22, was charged with five counts of abusing a spouse or co-habitant, one count of resisting arrest, one count of battery against an LAPD officer, three counts of vandalism, one count of false imprisonment and one count of trespassing.

The LAPD immediately came under scrutiny for the force depicted in the video, as it seemed to run afoul of department policy. Officers are forbidden from blocking or restricting a person’s airway while trying to subdue them. Targeting a person’s chest with a Taser is also strongly discouraged, according to LAPD policy.

The decision by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office not to file felony charges against Hayes last year drew the ire of the union that represents rank-and-file police officers.

On Feb. 24, he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment and resisting an officer. Last month, he was sentenced to three years of probation, 450 hours of community service and a year of weekly domestic violence classes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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