The city of Phoenix has settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $200,000 with the family of a 65-year-old man who died after sustaining serious injuries during a police arrest.
The incident stemmed from a phone call to the police on Oct. 6, 2014 of domestic violence at Balantine Mbegbu’s home. The caller said that the husband and wife were fighting.
Officers Matthew Johnson and Celina Gonzales arrived to the scene and spoke to Mbegbu’s wife, who was outside. They told her that they needed to speak to her husband, who was eating dinner inside. The officer proceeded to go into the home and told Mbegbu why they were there. He told them that he never fought his wife and to get out of his home, but the officers refused.
The lawsuit claims Johnson then became very aggressive and pushed Mbegbu’s chest with his right hand to sit him down. Mbegbu swatted his hand away.
Gonzalez then requested backup and two other officers, Joel Zemaitis and William Weber, arrived to the home. Gonzalez later said that he called for backup because Mbegbu hit Johnson and the officers were going to arrest him.
However, according to the lawsuit, the officers never told Mbegbu that they were arresting him and instead grabbed his hand and “without provocation, they physically attacked Balatine (Mbegbu) and slammed him to the ground.”
The officers then picked up Mbegbu and sat him back down in the chair. Johnson allegedly punched him and Zemaitis fired his taser, striking him in the chest.
Weber, along with four other officers, then grabbed Mbegbu and “forcefully smashed his head to the ground,” which made him bleed from his head and his eye.
After that, the officers rolled Mbegbu over and placed handcuffs on him. He began to throw up, foam at the mouth and have trouble breathing. Mbegbu then had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.