The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department released bodycam and store surveillance videos of the arrest of a suspect who died of a drug overdose while in police custody.
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco stated that the incident began after the family of 33-year-old Ernie Serrano called 911 stating that he was “not acting rationally, and was out of control,” according to KABC.
Officers responded to the home and found Serrano “belligerent, aggressive and displaying obvious signs of being under the influence,” Sheriff Bianco stated.
“Deputies used a Taser to force Mr. Serrano to comply,” he added. “He was treated at a local hospital and taken to the Robert Presley Detention Center.”
Serrano was then arrested and booked on felony obstructing a peace officer and suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance.
He was released the next morning on his own recognizance because of pandemic restrictions.
Serrano entered Stater Bros. grocery store on Crestmore Road in Jurupa Valley that night, and began exhibiting bizarre behavior.
Sheriff Bianco stated that he floated in and out of the grocery store for “two to three hours.”
He stated that Serrano was “cutting in front of people in the shopping aisles” and used his driver’s license multiple times to try and make payment.
A bystander’s video of Serrano’s arrest was shared on social media where it quickly went viral.
Sheriff Bianco released two additional videos that showed the events leading up to Serrano’s arrest and after his encounter with police.
Surveillance video shows Serrano wandering in the store, holding a bag of groceries. A number of store employees tried getting him out of the way or to leave, but he stayed put, the video shows.
A security guard was called to remove him from a checkout lane, but Serrano became violent when the guard tried to escort him out.
A fight ensued, lasting about 10 minutes, with Serrano resisting the guard’s efforts to move him towards the front of the store.
Sheriff Bianco stated that Serrano reached for the guard’s gun during the struggle, prompting the guard to deploy a Taser and pepper spray, but neither had any impact.
Videos show deputies arriving while the fight was still ongoing.
“Our deputies intervened and tried to detain Mr. Serrano, but he did not comply. A Taser was used, and he fell to the ground, but then he got back on his feet,” the sheriff said.
An officer used a baton to repeatedly hit Serrano, but he seemed unaffected by the blows.
Four deputies tackled him and eventually pinned him against a checkout counter, the video shows.
Two sets of handcuffs were used to restrain him.
“My name is Ernie Serrano!” he then shouted his date of birth. “Let me go! Let me go! Why did you tase me?'”
Bodycam footage showed Serrano bleeding from a cut over his eye and spitting blood out of his mouth.
Sheriff Bianco stated that deputies put a “spit shield” over his head as a precaution.
“Take the mask off!” he demanded.
One of the deputies who had arrested Serrano the previous night told the others that Serrano had really high blood pressure when they took him to the hospital.
Deputies held him chest down on the counter for about eight minutes as they repeatedly asked him to calm down.
Suddenly, Serrano went quiet and stopped moving.
“He’s stopped breathing,” one deputy said in the video.
Serrano was moved to the floor by deputies and chest compressions began.
Paramedics who were outside the store came in and tried to revive him, but he was pronounced dead at Riverside Community Hospital.
Sheriff Bianco stated that the preliminary autopsy results stated that Serrano died of acute methamphetamine intoxication with fatal arrhythmia.
Serrano’s family disputed claims that he tried to grab the guard’s weapon, adding that the position he was held in in contributed to his death.
The family has hired an attorney and revealed that they are seeking an independent autopsy.
Sources: The Police Tribune