EL MONTE — A family is alleging police brutality in the death of a schizophrenic 37-year-old El Monte man who died after being taken into custody by police Thursday night.
Family members and attorneys representing them said Khoa Anh Le died after two El Monte police officers struck him about 20 times with a flashlight, shocked him four times with a Taser and placed him in a choke hold.
“This is a police brutality case,” said Hoang Huy Tu, an attorney representing Le’s family.
El Monte police and Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials, who are investigating, released little information about the incident Friday.
El Monte police officers went to a house in the 2700 block of Caminar Avenue just before 11 p.m. Thursday in response to a report of a fight between family members, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“On arrival, the suspect became involved in a physical altercation with the officers,” Deputy Benjamin Grubb of the Sheriff’s Headquarter’s Bureau said in the statement.
“During the detention of the suspect, they noticed he was having medical complications and requested emergency medical personnel,” Grubb said.
Le was pronounced dead at Greater El Monte Community Hospital at 12:21 a.m. Friday, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Chief of Operations Craig Harvey said. An autopsy was planned to determined the cause of death, but had not been carried out by Friday afternoon.
Sheriff’s officials released no further details, and the sheriff’s homicide detectives investigating the case could not be reached for comment.
El Monte police deferred all further comment to the sheriff’s department, including whether the involved officers remained on patrol Friday or had been placed on administrative leave.
Le’s family attorney said Le, who stood 5-feet-6-inches tall and weighed about 160 pounds, had gotten into an argument with his father that escalated to pushing when his sister called 9-1-1.
By the time two officers arrived at the home, Le had calmed down. The officers, whose names were not released by authorities or known by Tu, confronted Le as he was sitting on his bed, using his computer in a small room built inside an attached garage where he lived, Tu said.
The officers demanded to see Le’s hands and pulled him from his bedroom, striking him repeatedly with flashlights, placing him in a choke hold, kicking him and shocking him with a Taser four times, the attorney said.
Some of the blows and electrical shocks were delivered as Le was already incapacitated, according to Tu and family members.
“The police kicked him several times while he was down on his knees,” sister Diane Le said.
Brother Tuan Le said when he told an officer to stop striking his brother, who was not moving, the officer responded with an expletive before again kicking Khoa Le and shocking him with a Taser.
Suddenly, the officers picked up Khoa Le and carried him out in front of the garage, where they performed CPR for about 20 minutes before an ambulance arrived to pick him up, Diane Le said.
Tu said Diane Le told the 9-1-1 operator that her brother suffered from a mental illness when she placed the call.
Diane Le added that at the outset of the incident when officers arrived, she heard her brother saying, “Don’t touch me.”
The family’s account contrasted with that of an El Monte police lieutenant who said earlier in the day that his understanding was that a Taser was not used in the incident.
Diane Le said her brother had lived with his family in El Monte for more than 20 years and graduated from Arroyo High School.
“He was very talkative and friendly,” she said. “He was a loving brother to me.”
“What the police did was not right. He didn’t have any weapon,” Diane Le said.
Tu said he plans to file a claim against the El Monte Police Department on behalf of Khoa Le’s family.
“I want to make sure this type of excessive force does not happen to anyone else,” he said.
“They asked the police to help. And instead they killed him,” he added.