Jury clears LAPD officers in $12.5-million lawsuit over man who swallowed heroin

A jury recently ruled in a civil lawsuit that five Los Angeles police officers were not responsible for the 2016 death of Alex Aguilar. He died after swallowing 26 grams of heroin during a search, officials said.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A federal jury recently ruled five Los Angeles police officers were not liable in a $12.5-million lawsuit over a man who died after swallowing 26 grams of heroin during an arrest, City Atty. Mike Feuer announced Thursday.

On June 9, 2016, two officers arrested Alex Aguilar for violating terms of a gang injunction in the Wilmington area of Los Angeles. While undergoing a strip search at the Harbor Division station, Aguilar, 42, swallowed the drugs and resisted arrest, Feuer said in a statement.

He lost consciousness after officers subdued him. Two other officers and paramedics attempted to revive Aguilar, but the efforts failed.

Aguilar died from asphyxiation after the heroin became lodged in his throat, the statement said. Besides the heroin, methamphetamine and alcohol contributed to Aguilar’s death, the coroner ruled.


Aguilar’s children accused five officers, which included a sergeant, of wrongful death, excessive force and improper medical treatment. The jury rejected all the claims against the officers.

Times researcher Cary Schneider contributed to this report.