LA police officer investigated after ‘pressing knee to the neck of NBA player’

A Los Angeles police officer is being investigated after briefly pressing his knee on the neck of an NBA player, according to a report.

Police were called to the home of New Orleans Pelicans centre Jaxson Hayes in the early hours of 28 July after his girlfriend’s cousin called 911.

The cousin said Hayes’ girlfriend had been sending text messages saying he had become loud and violent and that she was scared.

Hayes, 21, had argued and struggled against the officers after they said he could not return to his home, and they tried to restrain him.

He was eventually arrested for resisting arrest, after he was treated in hospital for minor injuries.

A police officer’s elbow was also injured when Hayes pushed him into a wall.

The LAPD’s Force Investigation Division is looking into the case “due to the possibility of force being applied to Hayes’ neck during the use of force”.

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Los Angeles police have handed the case to prosecutors, who have not yet decided whether to file charges.

Police-worn body camera footage released on Friday showed echoes of George Floyd, a black man who died after police officer Derek Chauvin held a knee to his neck for more than nine minutes in Minnesota.

George Floyd and Derek Chauvin
Image:George Floyd (left) died under the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin (right)

But there were some important differences – the police officer in Los Angeles pressed his knee on Hayes’ neck for a few seconds and immediately pulled away after a colleague told him to “get your knee up”.

Like Mr Floyd, Hayes was gasping: “I can’t breathe”, but he was able to recover after the second officer stepped in, unlike Chauvin’s three colleagues in the case of Mr Floyd.

They were charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin with murder and manslaughter because they did not try to stop him.

Also, while Mr Floyd had been pinned face-down, Hayes was on his back.

The moment when the officer’s knee was on Hayes’ neck is difficult to see in the footage but The Associated Press included it in its report.

Hayes had started by calmly answering officers’ questions while standing in his driveway with his cousin nearby.

Officers said they wanted to speak to his girlfriend and that he and his cousin should wait outside.

Hayes asked why he could not go inside and also whether the officers had a warrant to go in.

The officers said they did not need one – which could be true under California law under certain circumstances.

Hayes tried to go inside but two officers stopped him, one of them pushing him while his cousin held him back.

There was a scuffle and Hayes shoved an officer into a wall while another pulled out a Taser.

The officer warned the basketballer that he would be tasered if he did not stop resisting and it was then that the officer pressed his hand and then his knee to Hayes’ neck.

The Taser was fired close to Hayes’ chest and then close to his buttocks and back of his legs as the officer shouted: “stop resisting”.

Hayes was eventually handcuffed, with blood on his arm and shirt.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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