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Lawsuit Over Death Settled for $885,000

August 31, 1995|JOHN SCHWADA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles City Council agreed this week to pay $885,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of an African American man from Pasadena who died after he was allegedly hogtied and placed face down in a police car in 1993.

The council action settles a lawsuit by relatives of Michael James Bryant, a 37-year-old Pasadena barber who led officers from three police departments on a chase that began in San Marino and ended in Highland Park, where Bryant evaded police on foot until he fell into a swimming pool.

The lawsuit filed by attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. contended that Bryant died because he was improperly placed on his stomach while hogtied in violation of a Los Angeles Police Department policy promulgated only months earlier after another man had died under similar circumstances. Hogtying is a technique in which a suspect's arms and legs are handcuffed behind his back.

Although the city said Bryant was placed on his side, not on his stomach, the council vote Tuesday to settle the Bryant family's lawsuit was taken, without debate, after lawmakers were advised by their attorneys that a settlement was in the city's best interests.

Authorities said that Bryant on March 8, 1993, flagged down San Marino Officer Mark Fried, saying his nephew had been kidnaped. But when Fried tried to detain Bryant, who appeared intoxicated to him, the suspect sped away in his car.

Officers from San Marino, Pasadena and Los Angeles chased Bryant to Highland Park, where he led officers on a foot chase that ended when he tumbled into a back-yard swimming pool. Before the incident was over, the officers had struck the 6-foot-1, 320-pound man with batons and shot him with a Taser gun.

After taking him into custody, officers hogtied Bryant. After noticing that he was having trouble breathing, they took him to a hospital, where he died. A coroner's report found that he died from "cocaine intoxication and asphyxiation from restraint procedures."

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