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Police Commission Clears Sergeants In Violent Arrest Of Omar Abrego

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Omar Abrego and his sons (Photo via KTLA)
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The Los Angeles Police Commission cleared two LAPD sergeants today in the death of Omar Abrego, a 37-year-old father of three who died following a violent arrest last summer. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck had previously recommended that two LAPD sergeants—Jeff Mares and Robert Calderon—and four officers who were called in as backup be cleared in the death of Omar Abrego, who died the morning after a bloody arrest. The Police Commission unanimously agreed with Beck today after a review that took nearly a year to complete, the L.A. Times reports.

Omar Abrego, 37, was arrested on August 2, 2014 in front of his house in the 6900 block of South Main Street in South L.A. Police say that a bystander told them about a white van with no plates parked in an alleyway, which the person found suspicious, according to a redacted copy of Beck's recommendation. The two sergeants said they soon spotted a white van blow through a stop sign, nearly striking a pedestrian in the crosswalk, and began to follow. They said they pulled up next to the van when it stopped at Abrego's home, and that Abrego hopped out of the van's back doors. When the sergeants asked Abrego to get down on the ground, he first crouched down, then fled. Abrego only made it a dozen or so feet before he turned around and one of the sergeants was able to grab him. Abrego became violent, punching the sergeant in the chest, which is when the sergeant said he punched Abrego in the face three times. The other sergeant grabbed Abrego's arm and they forced him to the ground, then called for backup. Abrego was handcuffed and his legs were bound. The officers said that because Abrego was spitting blood, they eventually put a "spit sock" hood on him.

Witnesses, however, said that LAPD sergeants beat Abrego with batons for about 10 minutes. Abrego's brother, Yair Abrego, told KTLA that "they were beating [Abrego] real bad and he died of the wounds." Abrego's family has filed a lawsuit against the LAPD.

Abrego was taken to the hospital after his arrest, where he was treated for a concussion, cuts, bruises, renal failure and "cocaine toxicity." Abrego died the next day. The Coroner's office said that Abrego died due to cocaine use, but that the "physical and emotional duress" caused by his arrest also contributed to his death. One of the sergeants was treated for a fractured bone in his hand, and the other for an injury to his knee.

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The video below shows the end of the arrest as recorded by a witness.

Recently, the Police Commission and LAPD Chief Beck did not agree on another incident that took place a few blocks from where Abrego was taken into custody. While Beck wanted to clear officers in the shooting death of Ezell Ford, the Police Commission found that one of them acted within policy and that the other did not.