A criminal justice expert says Avoyelles Parish law officers who wrestled a Marksville man off a tractor while serving an arrest warrant last year used too much force, needlessly escalating a confrontation that ended with the man’s death. [They also] acted negligently by failing to administer aid once Armando Frank was unconscious.
…A forensic pathologist hired by the parish had said in a report that manual strangulation was the primary cause of Frank’s death. The video shows Spillman mount the tractor behind Frank and apply a choke hold while another officer tries to pull him down. For a time, Frank is doubled-over while resisting. Officers had to carry Frank to a patrol car after his body went limp.
…“His level of resistance starts out as passive. It doesn’t go to active and aggressive until he’s physically assaulted by these deputies,” Gregory Gilbertson, director of the criminal justice program at Centralia College in Centralia, Washington, said Thursday.
…Gilbertson said Frank’s questions as to what he was being arrested for, and who signed the warrant, were reasonable.
“There’s no exigent circumstance here,” Gilbertson said Thursday. “He’s not attempting to flee, he’s not assaulting anybody, he’s sitting on a tractor and he’s asking reasonable questions they are refusing to answer.”
…The report by Youngsville pathologist Christopher Tape labels the death a homicide for “medicolegal purposes,” noting that officers compromised Frank’s breathing for more than six minutes by placing him in neck holds and pressing him from behind. The report, which relies on an autopsy and body camera video, also notes that officers did not attempt to resuscitate Frank.
…Tape’s review of body camera footage highlights several points at which Frank struggled to breathe — points that Spillman’s narrative and the Sheriff’s Office’s reports do not include. Louisiana State Police also investigated the incident, but State Police spokesman Scott Moreau referred all questions to the Sheriff’s Office, which he said is the lead agency in the investigation.
Spillman’s neck hold on Frank was temporarily interrupted by the errant stun gun strike, Tape notes, at which point Frank could be heard breathing heavily. The struggle continued once Frank was off the tractor, with Frank coughing as he was pressed onto the tractor from behind, according to Tape’s report.
Less than half a minute later, Frank “can be heard to be coughing and gasping,” Tape wrote, and law enforcement continued pressing him against the tractor for another 78 seconds. During this time, Frank said “let me up” three times “in an increasingly deep and strained voice,” Tape wrote, adding that this was Frank’s “last verbal communication.”
Until officers of the law are held legally responsible for murders like these there is no law and order.