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Family of man who died in Riverside County incident 'wants answers'

October 22, 2013|By Ruben Vives

A lawyer for the family of a man who died in a confrontation with Riverside County sheriff's deputies at a Burger King drive-through is disputing official reports about how the 41-year-old plumber died.

Raymond Lewis Johnson died Oct. 11 after deputies kicked, pepper-sprayed, Tasered and used a baton to extract him from his vehicle; but the coroner determined he died not from those actions but from preexisting physical problems.

At least six to seven deputies were involved in the confrontation that lasted about 10 minutes, said Rickey Ivie, who represents the Johnson family and held a news conference Tuesday in downtown Los Angeles.

Moreno Valley contracts policing services with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. 

“We want to hold those particular officers accountable,” Ivie said.

According to a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department statement, deputies responded before 6 p.m. to the 23000 block of Hemlock Avenue after witnesses reported a man violently kicking and using his fists in an uncontrollable manner.

The man, later identified as Johnson, was sitting in his car and blocking the drive-through of the restaurant when the first deputy arrived at the location, the statement said.

Johnson was throwing food, money and other items outside the vehicle and appeared to be agitated, according to the statement.

The deputy requested assistance when he saw Johnson’s size -- 6-feet-3 and 216 pounds. Authorities said the deputy suspected that Johnson was under the influence of alcohol, narcotics or both because he was unresponsive and refused to exit his car.

“Johnson acted as if he was unaware of the officer’s presence,” the statement read.

In an effort to remove him, the deputy used pepper spray and a Taser, but both were ineffective, authorities said.

When other deputies arrived, one used a baton on Johnson’s upper left and right thighs and another kicked Johnson’s shoulder area to loosen his grip on the bottom of the passenger seat, the statement said.

Deputies feared that Johnson had a weapon under the seat, they said, according to the statement.

After the struggle, Johnson was handcuffed but had stopped breathing. Deputies attempted to resuscitate him, and he was later taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

In an Oct. 15 report, Riverside County coroner’s officials determined that Johnson had an enlarged heart. They said he had abrasions consistent with being involved in a struggle but that none of his injuries were life-threatening. They also ruled out asphyxia. A toxicology report is pending.

Ivie said an independent autopsy showed that Johnson died from lethal blows he received in the confrontation, including to the head. A toxicology report is also pending in that autopsy, he said.

Ivie said he planned to file a wrongful death lawsuit this week against the Sheriff's Department.

Johnson’s wife, Lawanda Johnson, who attended Tuesday's news conference, said Johnson was the father of five and worked as a plumber.

“They want answers,” she said of her children. “I want answers.”


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Twitter: @latvives

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