The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 26, 2014

Family of Okla. man who died after police altercation releases video

by Michael Kinney
CNHI News Service

OKLAHOMA CITY — Nair Rodriguez's voice can be heard loud and clear. With five law enforcement officers on top of her husband, Luis, she screamed over and over, "You kill him. You kill him."

The chilling screams were part of a six-minute cell phone video that was released Tuesday by the attorneys for the family of Luis Rodriguez, who died Feb. 15 after an altercation with three members of the Moore Police Department and two off-duty Oklahoma game wardens working private security at a movie theater Moore, Okla.

Three Moore police officers have been placed on administrative leave while state officials investigate. Rodriguez' cause of death has not yet been determined.

The video, filmed by Nair, doesn't begin until Luis is already down on the ground with the MPD and security grasping his limbs and holding a knee to the back of his neck.

In the video, Nair can be heard asking the officers why they were there.

"This is (a) parent thing, and look how you’re treating him," Nair said. "Can somebody explain to me why you came to this place? Please. Luis, are you OK? Luis. Luis, are you OK?"

When Luis didn't answer his wife, one of the officers responded, "He's fine."

However, once Luis was propped up off the ground, it appears he didn’t make any sounds or any movements the rest of the video.

"After seeing the treatment that Luis received from the officers, Luis' wife pulled out her phone to document their actions out of serious concern for his safety," attorney Michael Brooks-Jime'nez said.

According to police, Rodriguez died at the hospital in Moore after the altercation. However, the family contends he may have died in the parking lot of the theater.

The Rodriguez family and their attorneys had a news conference Tuesday at the NW Free Will Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, which is where Luis was a member.

Before showing the video to the assembled media, Brooks-Jime'nez made a statement in which he described the events of the night in question.

"The evening started with a family outing to watch a movie at The Warren Theatre," Brooks-Jime'nez said. "Luis' wife of 22 years and his teenage daughter got into an argument that resulted in his wife leaving to go to her car. Luis, known in his family and his church as a peacemaker, went after his wife to calm her down when he was confronted by police and theater security."

In the video, one of the police officers explains to Nair that they were responding to a domestic abuse call. Nair told the officer that she had struck their daughter.

"He was not involved in the disturbance," Brooks-Jime'nez said. "However, when the police came, they focused their attention on Luis, taking him face down to the pavement, pepper spraying his mouth, nose and eyes, putting the weight of five grown men on top of him, handcuffing him as he was unconscious or possibly already dead."

Nair asked the officer if Luis was bleeding. He tells her it's him who’s bleeding, but they had medics there to check on Luis.

While EMTs put Luis on a stretcher, an officer asked Nair about the fight with her 19-year-old daughter. While she was explaining what happened, Nair stopped mid-sentence. After a pause she began to scream for her husband.

"Papa!" Nair yelled. "Is he OK? He doesn't move. He doesn't move. You kill him. You kill him. You're killing my husband. Please somebody tell me that he's alive. I need to know that he's alive.”

The investigation was turned over to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, as was all evidence collected by the MPD. That includes the Rodriguez cell phone video, which was taken from Nair. A security video from the Warren Theatre also was handed over, but that has yet to be released to the public.

The cause of death is waiting on the toxicology report, according to the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner's office.

Michael Kinney is a reporter for The Norman Transcript in Norman, Okla.