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New video evidence surfaces in Florida wrongful death case

A Key West, Florida, traffic stop that ended in the death of a man who had just moved to the state to start his retirement is under additional scrutiny more than a year after it occurred on Thanksgiving 2013. A video recently surfaced that contradicts sworn testimony of officers, and more video seems to be missing.

A grand jury chose not to indict the officers involved. However, the man's family filed a wrongful death suit.

The Michigan man reportedly fled police after he illegally changed lanes and was captured by officers on the beach. Just what happened there is being disputed. The man lay in a coma until the family removed him from life support.

Police say the man left his vehicle and ran until he collapsed on the beach. His son believes he was asphyxiated by officers who forced his face into the sand. The police chief insists that the only force used on the man was an attempt to handcuff him.

According to the medical examiner, the victim died from lack of oxygen to the brain resulting from a heart condition and his struggle with officers. The death was ruled an accident.

In depositions taken for the wrongful death suit, officers said that they saw no sand on the victim's face and that he was not bleeding. One claimed that the man was "still fighting and talking" when they pulled him to his feet.

However, a witness's cellphone video contradicts the officers' sworn testimony. The video shows the man's face covered in sand and his right ear bleeding. An officer who says he didn't see those things is in the video.

The family is asking why the video wasn't presented to the grand jury. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says it was unaware of it. An attorney for the family, who located the witness and the tape, believes that authorities "didn't try too hard" to obtain it.

There also be even more missing video evidence from the taser of one officer, according to the FDLE. Only video from after the arrest is available. The family's lawsuit contends the rest was destroyed.

Whether or not criminal legal action is taken against police officers or others involved in a person's death, families have the right to file a civil wrongful death suit. These suits not only can provide needed compensation for surviving family members, but they can shed additional light on a death.

Source: CBS News, "New evidence sheds light on deadly traffic stop" Dec. 17, 2014

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