A Las Vegas police officer is being charged with the death of a former Hawaii man.
Vegas authorities say Tashii Brown, 40, died after Officer Kenneth Lopera used a rear naked choke hold. This type of mixed martial arts neck hold is not approved by the department.
It happened during a chase through restricted areas of a Las Vegas strip casino in May. Brown was later found to have methamphetamine in his system.
We checked with the Honolulu Police Department and learned submission holds are the only neck holds officers are allowed to use when restraining someone. The hold can only be used when “reasonable and appropriate.”
Officers are taught not to apply pressure to the throat or airways. When pressure is placed on the subject, the hold restricts oxygen to the brain. Officers are forbidden to hold the subject in this manner longer than 30 seconds.
“Generally someone is going to pass out in four to six seconds. It’s very fast. When there’s no oxygen to the brain, after a certain period of time, the body will convulse because it’s starved for oxygen,” explained jiu jitsu instructor Mitchell Johnson.
Johnson, who has over 10 years of experience teaching jiu jitsu, currently instructs at Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu – Ron Shiraki Academy on Kapahulu Avenue.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Even though you’re just doing your job, you have to be really careful,” said Johnson. “It’s incredibly safe if you know what you’re doing. The problem is, a lot of times adrenaline kicks in, your perception of time, all these factors play into it. Time can get away from you, before you know it, you’re holding on a lot longer than you should be.”
In 2013, Stephen Dinnan died after being restrained by an HPD officer and an off duty firefighter. The family sued the city and was given a $1 million settlement.
In 2012, Aaron Torres of Waianae died after police restrained him. His family received a $1.4 million settlement from the city.
Police union president Tenari Maafala tells us neck holds are one of the last methods used to restrain a person.
“This is part of what we are trained to use and use of force. With all due respect, bottom line, obey the order of officer. If they ask you to not resist arrest, that’s where it all starts,” Maafala said.