Phoenix Police Release Body Camera Videos of Man's Death After Taken Into Custody

The family of Muhammad Muhaymin is still seeking answers.

January 27, 2017, 6:14 PM

— -- The Phoenix Police Department has released footage from several police body cameras documenting the arrest of Muhammad Muhaymin earlier this month after which he was declared dead, as family members of the deceased say they are considering legal options.

The 43-year-old man died on Jan. 4 after a physical altercation with officers near the Maryvale Community Center in Arizona's capital city, according to police.

The Phoenix Police Department on Thursday released six of the 14 videos from police body cameras. The other eight videos are “in the final stages of the redaction process” and are expected to be released soon, police said.

The incident began at approximately 9:30 a.m. local time when officers with the Phoenix Police Department were responding to a “fight call” at the community center. The officers observed Muhaymin “acting erratically” and refusing to leave the facility after he had “assaulted an employee,” police said.

The officers made contact with Muhaymin and attempted to arrest him when he began struggling with them, police said.

“Multiple officers were needed to subdue the man who continued to act violently even after he was restrained by officers and handcuffs,” Sgt. Jonathan Howard, a Phoenix Police Department spokesman, said in the initial statement in early January after the incident.

While struggling with officers on the ground in the parking lot outside the community center after his arrest, police said Muhaymin began showing signs of “medical distress.” Muhaymin was then transported to a local hospital, where he was subsequently pronounced dead. The incident remains under investigation, with the official cause and manner of Muhaymin’s death still pending, police said.

But several weeks after Muhaymin’s death, the man’s family is still seeking answers.

Muhaymin’s sister and the family’s attorney spoke to reporters outside the Phoenix Police Department headquarters on Thursday. Mussallina Muhaymin said her brother suffered from mental illness and police did not react appropriately.

“This should have never happened,” Mussallina Muhaymin told ABC affiliate KNXV. “There’s no reason to justify this.”

The family’s attorney, David Chami, told reporters they are considering legal options.

“He lost his life. And it didn’t have to happen,” Chami said.

According to Sgt. Howard, all officers with the Phoenix Police Department are “trained to work with people with a wide variety of disabilities.” All officers involved in the Jan. 4 incident were up to date on their training, Howard told ABC News.

“We have a duty to protect the integrity of the investigation, however, in this particular case, we do not believe the release of the body worn camera video will jeopardize our ability to complete a thorough and accurate investigation,” Phoenix Police Department Chief Jeri Williams said in a statement Thursday. “As with any critical incident, we will always review and learn from what has transpired.”

In the footage from the released videos, Muhaymin is seen carrying a small dog without a leash and appears to be having a dispute with a staff member inside the community center. Muhaymin is heard telling the staff member and the responding officers that the animal is a service dog. But the staff member is heard telling police that the dog bit some of his employees and needs to be kept on a leash.

After escorting Muhaymin with his dog out of the facility, the officers inform him that he's under arrest for an outstanding warrant and instruct him to put down his dog. The instruction seems to agitate him, at which point a scuffle ensues with the officers.

Muhaymin refuses to let go of the dog, telling the officers, “please, call my sister first" as he struggles with them. The police advise him during the altercation to stop fighting.

After officers successfully subdue him after several attempts, Muhaymin becomes ill and police say on the tape that he is vomiting once he is on the ground.

The officers call for medical assistance and attempt to resuscitate the man multiple times after he becomes unresponsive.

“I don’t think he’s breathing,” one officer says. “I don’t feel a pulse.”

The Phoenix Police Department on Thursday identified the officers involved in the incident as Oswald Grenier, Jason Hobel, Ronaldo Canilao, David Head, Susan Heimbigner, Kevin McGowan, James Clark, Dennis Leroux, Ryan Nielsen and supervisor Steven Wong. The officers each have between 12 and 23 years of experience.

Sgt. Howard of the Phoenix Police Department told ABC News the four primary officers who had the most contact with Muhaymin were, as standard practice, placed on immediate paid leave following the incident. All officers have since returned to duty, Howard said.

ABC News' Rachel Katz and Blair Shiff contributed to this report.

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