Conflicting stories about man who died after confrontation with deputies
DAIRYVILLE, Calif. - A Tehama County man called 911 for help and wound up dead. Now loved ones are upset and believe law enforcement used excessive force.
Harry Velez called 911 on September 21 after he thought he had been drugged.
His pregnant girlfriend witnessed the incident but she was too distraught to talk about it. So her sister Kassandra Farmer stepped in to explain what transpired that evening.
Deputies with the Tehama County Sheriff's Office responded to Velez's home in Dairyville, said assistant sheriff Phil Johnston.
"His behavior became bizarre, uncontrolled, uncontrollable," Johnston stated.
Deputies tried to handcuff Velez for his own safety, but he resisted. Up to this point, everyone agrees about what happened.
"My sister said there was a small struggle. The officers tased him once and he stopped moving. They were able to get the handcuffs on a little better and they were able to, both officers get on top of him," Farmer explained.
However, the stories begin to differ at this point.
Farmer noted her sister told her deputies used the stun gun six more times.
"They tased him once in the head, a few times around his heart, on his back, that is a total of seven times," she explained.
When asked how many times the stun gun was used Johnston did not give a solid answer, but believed it was used only twice.
He adds deputies did not use the stun gun on Velez's head.
"I know we don't teach that and I know it didn't happen in this case," he stated.
At one point Velez appeared to stop breathing and deputies started CPR and called an ambulance.
Farmer said paramedics used a defibrillator to get his heart going.
"He never came back. He never woke up. He was just there," Farmer noted.
He died five days later when he was taken off life-support.
Farmer's sister now has a lawyer, saying she wants to make sure if excessive force was used they are held accountable.
"Seven times is a bit excessive. I think a stun gun is suppose to be a nonlethal weapon and it's suppose to be used to subdue somebody," Farmer explained.
However, Johnston insisted this is not a case of excessive force.
"There were other officers and other personnel on scene. We have no other indication that anyone used excessive force and we aren't even aware of a claim of that," Johnston noted.
He mentioned an autopsy did not uncover signs of trauma. The sheriff's office is waiting for a toxicology report.
Johnston explained they are investigating Velez's death because they too want to know how he died and if drugs were involved.
Farmer said Velez has a history of addiction.
"He had a troubled past. He struggled at times with addiction. He had gotten, made the decision to get clean and he had stayed clean for quite some time. We don't know if we have gone back to that," Farmer stated.
She mentioned Velez loved his family and is sad Velez won't be here to see his children grow.