Our Firm Filed A Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Five New Bedford Police Officers After Man Dies in Police Custody

Today we filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family of Erik Aguilar, a New Bedford man who died in the custody of the New Bedford police on July 22, 2010. This civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit alleges that New Bedford officers ignored Mr. Aguilar’s serious medical needs, resulting in his death.

The complaint alleges the following facts. A convenience store employee called the police seeking help for Mr. Aguilar. New Bedford police officer Paul Hodson arrived at the store, spoke with Mr. Aguilar, then tried to handcuff him. Officer Hodson then took Mr. Aguilar to the ground, sprayed him with pepper spray, handcuffed him with his hands behind his back, left him lying face down on the pavement, and applied pressure to his back. Mr. Aguilar struggled to breathe because he was face down with his hands cuffed behind him.

Officer Hodson and other New Bedford police officers casually stood around as Mr. Aguilar was lying face down until his heart stopped beating. The police did not call for medical care until they learned Mr. Aguilar had no pulse. Only then did the police officers sit him up. Even then, they did not start CPR until over four minutes after learning he had no pulse. It was too late.

The lawsuit is based on surveillance video from the gas station and documents obtained in a public records request. An investigation by the New Bedford Police Division of Professional Standards states, “What occurs on the video footage, and far more importantly what does not occur on the video footage, is in direct conflict with our mission as police officers and a police department. The six police officers on scene had the training, the duty, and the obligation as police officers to help and protect Erik Aguilar, and they undeniably failed to do so.”

William Aguilar, who brought this case as the administrator of his brother’s estate, said, “My brother should still be alive. The police officers did not treat Erik like a human being. If the police officers had taken him to the hospital or sat him up, Erik would still be alive.”

The suit seeks money damages for the loss of Mr. Aguilar’s life. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court in Boston.

Click here to view the Complaint.

Here is the surveillance video of the incident:

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