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“I can’t breathe!” New video shows Indio Police struggle with man who died in custody; family to file lawsuit

The family of an Indio man who died in police custody two weeks ago is demanding answers after video surfaced online of the arrest. 

During a vigil Wednesday night at the park across the street from Indio City Hall, family members and friends mourned the loss of Jose Albert Lizarraga Garcia, a brother, father and soon-to-be grandfather.

Garcia's family is raising money for funeral and legal expenses – if you'd like to help, click here.

Police said Garcia was acting suspiciously, going in and out of stores near Cardenas Market on Highway 111 in Indio on Jan. 22. He was taken into custody and police said he required medical assistance from paramedics after becoming combative and being physically restrained. 

New video shows the police struggle moments after Garcia was arrested by Indio Police. He is seen pinned to the ground by several officers, struggling and shouting "I can't breathe," multiple times. 

Garcia's daughter, Tyanna Lizarraga, said she's struggled seeing the videos of the incident sweeping social media. "I am trying my best to stay strong," she said. "It's been very tough, especially to watch the videos and see it happen."

Lizarraga disputes the police accusation that her dad was under the influence, and blames their handling of the arrest for his death. In particular, she said she takes issue with officers' use of a "spit hood," which is seen covering Garcia's head. It's meant to protect police from infectious diseases, and police said it doesn't restrict breathing. 

"They had said it was for Covid protocols, but meanwhile, I would say probably two to three officers, they weren't wearing masks," Lizarraga said. 

Her attorney, David Kenner, said Garcia was choked to death by police. 

"Once again we hear those infamous words, 'I can't breathe; I can't breathe,'" Kenner said. "It still exists and persists; it happened last week right here in this town."

He alleges the officers' cost Lizarraga her father, and snatched too soon the life of the grandpa to the baby girl she's expecting in just a few months. 

"Shes not going to be able to meet her grandfather," Lizarraga said, breaking down in tears. "It completely breaks my heart."

They are now setting out to hold the officers and police department accountable, and plan to file a lawsuit soon. 

Indio Police couldn't respond to the videos citing the ongoing investigation. A spokesman said three officers are now back on duty after about a week of administrative leave. 

The department is expecting to release the body camera footage and 911 recordings from this incident within the coming weeks. 

Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.

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