Bodycam shows Chula Vista police encounter before man’s death

Local

WARNING: The video above contains body-worn camera recordings of Chula Vista police officers restraining a man during a March 2020 incident that some viewers may find disturbing.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Chula Vista police released body-worn camera footage Friday from March of 2020 showing the moments leading up to the death of a Northern California man following an encounter with officers in a South Bay neighborhood.

Body-worn camera footage shows 56-year-old Oral Nunis Sr. on March 13, 2020 while sitting at a home in the 1300 block of Camino Carmelo in Chula Vista, Calif. Nunis, a Northern California resident, was detained by officers and placed into an ambulance where he was reported to be in medical distress before later being pronounced dead at a local hospital. (Chula Vista Police Department photo)

The release comes after the department completed its investigation into a March 13, 2020 incident in which officers detained 56-year-old Oral Nunis Sr. after receiving a report he was trying to jump from a second-floor window in the 1300 block of Camino Carmelo. Nunis, who was visiting his daughter in Chula Vista, was handcuffed and restrained by officers before being placed into an ambulance.

Within minutes, paramedics notified police Nunis was in medical distress and became unresponsive. He was taken to an area hospital, where he later was pronounced dead, the department said.

After the incident, Nunis’ family filed suit against the city, alleging officers used unreasonable force in detaining him, leading to his death. They also argued that Nunis being Black factored into the way he was treated by police.

A report by the San Diego County Medical Examiner, received by the department in May 2021, listed Nunis’ cause of death as “cardiac arrest of an undetermined manner that appears to have been caused by excited delirium.” He was noted in the report as having a history of anxiety and high blood pressure, police said.

It is unclear why it took 14 months for the report to be completed with the police department calling it “an unusually lengthy investigation by the county coroner.” Carl Douglas, an attorney representing Nunis’ family, was quoted by City News Service last year alleging that the city and San Diego County were withholding autopsy report results, making it impossible to determine how he died.

The video released Friday includes body-worn camera footage from several officers, radio traffic from police dispatch and a more than four-minute summary of the incident by Chula Vista police Chief Roxana Kennedy.

“This video can be difficult to watch. Mr. Nunis’ death was an extremely sad and disturbing event,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Although it will be of little consolation to the Nunis family, we are hoping this video helps our community have a better understanding of what happened that night.

“Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of Oral Nunis Sr. and everyone impacted by this incident.” 

The first portion of bodycam video shows Chula Vista police Agent Linney arrive at the family’s home. He makes contact with a woman at the front door and asks where Nunis is in the house. They walk together into the home and come upon Nunis sitting in what appears to be a bedroom doorway.

Linney then produces a pair of handcuffs, leading the woman to say, “Don’t cuff him, please.”

“I have to,” Linney responds, turning to Nunis and saying, “You’re not in any trouble, man. This is for everyone’s safety, OK?”

“I will come with you,” Nunis said. “No, no, no. No handcuffs. Please.”

Linney takes some steps back before informing a dispatcher that Nunis is being “uncooperative” and refusing to be handcuffed. He returns to Nunis — now trying to get up from where he’s seated — and Linney reaches his left hand out to touch Nunis, telling him that he needs to sit down.

Following that remark, police say Linney’s body-worn camera suffered an internal malfunction, leaving a 34-second gap in the footage. In that period of time, police say Nunis ran down the stairs of the home and outside, where he was tackled by Linney. Officers said Nunis — who was 5-foot-4 and weighed less than 150 pounds, according to family — struggled with officers while being held down on the pavement.

Another angle of footage captured by an Officer Padilla shows Padilla approach Nunis and Linney. Padilla steps in to assist when police say his body-worn camera was bumped and turned off.

According to the department, Padilla reactivated the camera “approximately 90 seconds later.” When the video returns, it shows 30 seconds of muted video, a feature of the body-worn camera system. In it, Nunis can be seen laying on the ground on his back. He appears to be speaking to a family member and the officers before the audio returns and he is seen being restrained.

Body-worn camera footage shows 56-year-old Oral Nunis Sr. on March 13, 2020 while being detained outside of a home in the 1300 block of Camino Carmelo in Chula Vista, Calif. Nunis, a Northern California resident, was placed into an ambulance where he was reported to be in medical distress before later being pronounced dead at a local hospital. (Chula Vista Police Department photo)

A third angle captured by an Officer Olson shows the effort to restrain Nunis.

Upon the arrival of another officer, police use a device called a “wrap,” which the department says is intended to “secure the legs of a person and to maintain a sitting posture which facilitates open airways.” Police also put a breathable mesh spit hood over Nunis’ head because they say he was spitting.

Olson’s video shows Nunis being loaded onto a gurney, at which time the department noted that he was still breathing.

At the end of the video, Kennedy said two investigations were launched into the case, one into the “facts and circumstances of the case” and a second in order to determine “if policies and procedures were followed.”

A review also was underway by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

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