The family of a Miami man left in a coma after being put in a choke hold by police filed a civil rights lawsuit Wednesday against the city of Miami, its police chief and six police officers.
The suit charges that excessive use of force by officers resulted in severe brain damage to Antonio Edwards, who remains in a coma at Jackson Memorial Hospital following his Jan. 3 arrest.
He was charged with resisting arrest with violence and carrying a concealed weapon after a police officer saw his car illegally parked. His struggle with police stopped his heart and his brain began to die as more than 40 people looked on.
All charges against Edwards have been dropped, but he may never leave the hospital. Doctors have said he may slightly improve but probably will never be able to care for himself. He also could die.
"The medical care and treatment alone will run into several million dollars, apart from what the wife and child may be entitled," attorney Marc C. Brotman told a news conference at the federal courthouse.
The suit filed on behalf of Edwards, his wife, Tangenika, and the couple's 3-year-old son, Antonio Jr., seeks no specific amount of damages. The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Lenore Nesbitt.
Edwards' mother, Wauneda Neal, said she wants the officers involved to be held accountable. "They can't do this to somebody, not for parking the wrong way on a street," she said. "They just can't hurt people this way."
According to the complaint, Edwards was in his car when an officer approached and then proceeded to arrest the 23-year-old construction worker. When Edwards asked for an explanation as to why he was being arrested, he was placed in a choke-hold by Officer Carl Seals and became unconscious.
Several witnesses have said at least six other officers participated in striking and kicking Edwards. One of the family's attorneys, A. J. Goodman, said police tried to cover up their brutality by misleading doctors who treated him in the emergency room.
Hospital records indicate police told hospital officials Edwards had suffered "cocaine intoxication." Drug tests at the hospital, however, established Edwards had no cocaine or any other drug in his system.
The complaint charges that the city of Miami "as a matter of policy and practice, has with deliberate indifference failed to properly sanction or discipline police officers, including the defendants in this case for violations of the constitutional rights of citizens."
Seals, one of the defendants, has been suspended with pay.