A sad scary story has emerged this week about Jorge Azucena, a man who died of an asthma attack in police custody, despite the fact that he repeatedly pleaded for help from the arresting officers, informing them that he had asthma and couldn’t breathe.
Even though the story has only come to light recently, the events took place nearly a year ago on September 6, 2013. Azucena ran a red light. The police attempted to pull him over. Azucena sped ahead, leading the police on a car chase which eventually turned into a foot chase when Azucena abandoned his vehicle. He was eventually caught and taken into custody, and soon began complaining of an asthma attack.
According to the reports, Azucena said “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. I have asthma, I have asthma.” Then a short time later, “I can’t breathe. Help me, help me, I can’t breathe.” And then later, “I can’t breathe. I’m messed up.”
Azucena was met with unhelpful responses such as, “you can talk, so you can breathe” and “act like a man and walk.”
But when Azucena arrived at the police station, he was unable to walk or even stand. The officers placed him face down on the floor and left them. A while later, another officer noticed Azucena’s condition and called a rescue ambulance, but by then it was too late. Although allegations of misconduct have been made against the officers involved in this case, at this point they have yet to face any discipline and it’s uncertain if they ever will.
This sad case serves as a reminder that complaints of difficulty breathing should never be taken lightly. And for those with asthma, it’s always important to keep your rescue inhaler on hand.