Christopher Smelser of the Las Cruces Police Department was charged with involuntary manslaughter on June 5th after he used a neck restraint on a suspect who later died.
Body camera footage shows the death of Antonio Valenzuela after Smelser used a vascular neck restraint technique to subdue him, per KTSM 9 News. Smelser will be facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, which is a fourth-degree felony, as announced by District Attorney Mark D’Antonio. (RELATED: NYPD Officer Who Violently Pushed Woman In Viral Video Charged With Assault)
A statement from the District Attorney’s office stated that officers deployed a taser twice while in pursuit of Valenzuela but there was no effect. Valenzuela was stopped by police during a routine traffic stop on February 29th, 2020. Officers attempted to apprehend Valenzuela after learning of a warrant for his arrest due to a violation of parole.
Valenzuela then fled on foot to escape police, where he was tackled and held in a neck restraint by Smelser, read the statement. A transcript of the body camera footage by KTSM 9 News shows that officers were not aware of Valenzuela’s condition. “He’s snored right now,” says an officer in the video. It’s not until five minutes after Valenzuela goes unconscious that an officer recommends checking for a pulse.
“Mr. Valenzuela was observed as non-responsive, EMS technicians attempted life-saving measures which were not successful,” read the statement from the District Attorney.
“Words are insufficient to bring comfort to Antonio Valenzuela’s family, but I extend my sincere condolences for their loss,” said Las Cruces police Chief Patrick Gallagher in a statement from the Las Cruces Police Department.