Daniel Holtzclaw, the 27-year-old Oklahoma City police officer charged with sexually assaulting eight black women, is also a defendant in a wrongful death suit filed earlier this year.
According to court documents, on the evening of May 1, 2013, Clifton Armstrong, a 39-year-old black man who suffered from paranoia and schizophrenia, called 911 for medical assistance. Holtzclaw, along with three fellow officers, arrived to his home. When given the option, Armstrong declined to enter a squad car in order to be taken to the hospital because he only wanted to travel in his grandmother’s vehicle. The officers then proceeded to hogtie Armstrong into submission using belts. He was declared dead shortly afterward, as alleged in a lawsuit filed by Armstrong’s mother, Velencia Maiden:
Upon information and belief, in attempting to subdue Mr Armstrong, the officers used force to restrain and subdue him, by placing him in handcuffs, and using belts to restrain his leg movement, which is famously referred to as the “maximum restraint hobble system” with malicious intent and without justification, pursuant to Oklahoma City Police Department’s policy, practice or custom, I reckless disregard for the welfare of Clifton Armstrong.
As a result of this altercation, Mr Armstrong collapsed, and paramedics where summoned who transported Mr Armstrong to the emergency room at the Baptist Hospital where Armstrong was pronounced dead.
Court documents indicate that the police department opened an internal investigation into the incident and exonerated all four officers involved: Jeffery Dutton, Gregory Franklin, Mohammed Tabaia and Daniel Holtzclaw.
Oklahoma’s medical examiner ruled Armstrong’s death an accident, citing “excited delirium syndrome.” Many medical practitioners don’t recognize excited delirium syndrome as a legitimate medical condition—and civil rights groups point to the fact it is often used to justify excessive force. Armstrong was also under the influence of methamphetamines at the time of his death. The medical examiner’s report did add that his physical altercation with the police was an aggravating factor that caused his death.
Maiden’s lawsuit seeks damages totaling $75,000 for her son’s wrongful death, as well as pain and suffering, medical expenses, funeral expenses and more costs related to Armstrong’s death at the hands of Oklahoma cops.
In an unrelated case, Daniel Holtzclaw is currently charged with 16 felony sex crime counts: burglary, stalking, two counts of rape, four counts of indecent exposure, four counts of sexual battery, four counts of forcible oral sodomy—all allegedly committed against black women. Prosecutors say Holtzclaw threatened his victims with arrest or physical punishment in order to get away with sexual assault.
But Daniel Holtzclaw has his supporters. His sister, Jenny Holtzclaw, set up a GofundMe.com page that raised more than $7,000 for her brother before it was abruptly shut down by the online fundraising service. A “Justice for Daniel Holtzclaw” Facebook page, meanwhile, has garnered more than 600 likes. Holtzclaw’s bond, originally set at $5 million, has been lowered to $500,000, and he’s expected to leave jail to live with his father, Eric—who’s a lieutenant in a nearby police department—while he prepares for trial.