Lawyer: Officer's knee to neck killed man during 2018 arrest

A civil rights lawyer is drawing direct comparisons to the death of George Floyd as he prepares to sue a Florida police department over the death of a white man

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Drawing direct comparisons to the death of George Floyd, a civil rights lawyer said he's filing suit against a Florida police department in the death of a 36-year-old white man who collapsed with an officer's knee on his neck.

Timothy Coffman died four days after four South Daytona police officers struggled to control him during an arrest in July 2018, attorney Benjamin Crump said Thursday at a news conference where he appeared with Coffman's mother.

“It was the knee of the South Daytona Police Department that killed Timothy Coffman,” Crump said.

The death of Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody has sparked global protests against police killings. A black man, Floyd pleaded for air while offering little resistance to his arrest on May 25. Crump also represents the Floyd family.

“Like George Floyd, Timothy Coffman has a police officer’s knee on his back until he lost consciousness,” Crump said.

The South Daytona Police Department declined to comment, citing pending legal action.

Coffman was violent as officers tried to subdue him, according to body cam video. His autopsy listed the cause of death as “complications of methamphetamine toxicity” and the contributory condition as “physical restraint.”

No charges were filed against the officers. Seventh Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza said in October 2018 that his office reviewed all the reports and statements in the case, and that “no further action is warranted,” according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Crump is calling for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.

In addition to methamphetamine, the toxicology report listed other drugs in Coffman's system, including amphetamines, morphine, fentanyl and norfentanyl.

Crump and attorney Jasmine Rand represent Coffman’s mother, Kimberly Mitchell. She told the news conference that her son was mentally ill and she had tried to get help for him.

Court records show Coffman had prior arrests before police were called to respond to a suspicious person who seemed “off,” the newspaper reported.

A police report said Coffman fled when the first officer to arrive asked to speak to him. The officer fired a stun gun at him, and Coffman ripped out the barbs and kept running. The officer sprayed Coffman with pepper spray. Coffman then grabbed a bottle of insecticide and sprayed the officer.

The officer said he knew he couldn't physically restrain Coffman, who weighed 244 pounds, so he stalled until help arrived. Four officers then struggled with Coffman before finally getting him in handcuffs and leg restraints.

Body cam video shows one of the officers putting his knee on the neck, shoulder and back of the face-down Coffman, who yelled “Get off me.”

Coffman struggled for a few minutes, then stopped. The officers rolled him over and put him in a sitting position, the video shows. By then, his head and neck appeared limp.

Paramedics took him to a hospital where he died four days later.

“What he needed was a helping hand,” Crump said of Coffman. “What he got was a deadly knee.”