ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Video released Thursday by the Bernalillo County Metro Detention Center shows the moments leading up to an inmate’s death while in custody. The family of Vicente Villela has been pushing MDC to release the video, saying it will show corrections officers did not follow policy.
Villela was arrested that day on burglary charges. The entire incident on February 2 involving Vicente Villela was captured on video.
Guard: “Trying to move him, he’s refusing to move now.”
Lt. Keith Brandon said they were trying to move Villela to a different part of the jail. That was just after 9 p.m. Thirty minutes later, the 37-year-old complied with corrections officers. But after he changed, they didn’t even make it to the end of the hall.
Guard: “Just stop, Vicente. Just stop, dude.”
With Villela on the ground, they tried to get a second pair of handcuffs on him.
Villela: “I need some water….ahhhh.”
“He had a four-point restraint system, which is basically the chains that go from the ankles up to the wrist,” attorney Matthew Vance said.
Matthew Vance is representing the family in a wrongful death lawsuit. “It’s clear that Vicente was agitated, but it’s also clear that the officers went well beyond what was necessary,” Vance said.
Just seconds after guards got him into a cell, a guard ordered Villela to lie down while they removed his cuffs. According to corrections officers, they were trying to “maintain control” of Villela after he had grabbed one of the officer’s hands and wouldn’t let go.
Guard: “Sit on him. Now, Sandoval.”
Video shows one officer had his knee over Villela’s face, another had his knee pushing down on Villela’s back as he began a series of knee strikes into Villela’s side.
“At different points in time there’s as many as six, seven officers that are pushing on Vicente and holding him down,” Vance said.
Guard: “You’re about to get tased.”
Villela: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
Villela: “I can’t breathe, sir.”
“He said, ‘I can’t breathe. Sir, I cannot breathe,’ and I counted eight times,” Vance said.
Villela’s autopsy report shows the 37-year-old suffocated and ruled his death a homicide. The county said the situation is still under investigation, therefore it can’t say much.
“I think MDC and everyone in the county who has seen the video certainly understands this is a serious situation,” Tia Bland, Bernalillo County Communications Director, said.
In one of the incident reports, a corrections officer states medical staff arrived unprepared. The autopsy report also shows Villela had meth in his system and listed that as a contributing factor in his death.
The county will not say if any of the corrections officers were disciplined. The DA’s office is now reviewing the case to determine if charges should be filed.