Lawsuit alleging Minneapolis police officers suffocated man at YMCA on track for trial

Categories: Police

The lawsuit alleges the officers suffocated Smith using a technique known as "prone restraint."
A federal lawsuit alleging two Minneapolis police officers used excessive force and suffocated a 28-year-old man at a YMCA in 2010 is on track for trial this fall.

Earlier this year, attorneys for the City of Minneapolis filed for an order of summary judgement in the suit, asking all counts be dismissed. During a hearing Friday afternoon, Judge Susan Richard Nelson announced she would deny the claim, noting a trial should be scheduled for September or October.

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The allegations stem from an Sept. 9, 2010 incident at the YMCA in downtown Minneapolis. Officers Timothy Gorman and Timothy Callahan responded to a call from a Y employee regarding a man acting erratically on one of the basketball courts, throwing the ball around and scaring others at the gym.

The officers arrived around 4 p.m., and struggled to bring David Cornelius Smith under control, Tasering him multiple times in the process. After holding him down for several minutes, the officers realized Smith wasn't breathing. Smith was brought to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died on Sept. 17. The Hennepin County medical examiner identified the manner of death as "homicide."

After reviewing the case, then-Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan defended the officers, saying they acted appropriately in trying to control Smith. "The unfortunate reality is that in any situation where use of force is required, police officers can act appropriately and still have a tragic result," said Dolan.

But according to the lawsuit, filed by Smith's uncle, the officers used excessive force during the arrest. Smith suffers from Schizoaffective disorder, which is why he was acting strangely that day, according to the suit. The officers suffocated Smith by using "prone restraint," a controversial technique in which an officer applies pressure to the individual's back in a manner that makes it difficult for the person to take in oxygen, the suit alleges. The lawsuit also states that risk of harm resulting from prone restraint is amplified by mental illness, Taser usage, and physical exertion.

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