PARIS (AP) — New details about the death of a French delivery driver in the wake of a police arrest in January have raised renewed criticism over police restraining techniques and prompted his family to urge a ban on the use of chokeholds.
In an appeal Tuesday, the family of Cedric Chouviat also sought the suspension of the four police officers involved in the arrest, during which he pleaded seven times “I’m suffocating.”
Chouviat, a 42-year-old delivery man, died in hospital, two days after his Jan. 3 arrest following a traffic stop near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The death of Chouviat has similarities with the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month, which sparked outrage around the world and a series of Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
Chouviat’s family appeal follows reports from daily newspaper Le Monde and investigative website Mediapart outlining the details of his 22-second arrest.
Le Monde and Mediapart said they had access to video footage of Chouviat’s own mobile phone which recorded his discussion with police officers prior to and during his arrest, including his final words. Other videos of the arrest taken from afar by bystanders, widely broadcast on French media, show Chouviat pinned face-down by three of the officers.
Police techniques in restraining people, such as the chokehold, have come under scrutiny after Floyd was killed when Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
A manslaughter investigation is underway though investigators have yet to decide whether to press charges against the four police officers involved in the arrest.
Chouviat’s widow, Doria, told The Associated Press she wants authorities to “recognize that this chokehold is dangerous” and compared her husband’s death to that of Floyd’s.
“You have a citizen who’s asking to live and is a victim of injustice and violence to the point of losing his life,” she said. “It’s a copy-paste.”
“He was a father; someone’s son; someone’s friend. And all this for what in the end? For nothing,” she added.
Chouviat’s daughter, Sofia, said she doesn’t understand why the officers have not been suspended and why chokeholds are still being used by police. Her father suffered a fracture of the larynx, she said.
“We want answers,” she said. “We have a feeling of fear, of impunity, we want it to stop,” she said.
Chouviat’s father, Christian, said his son “was not given any chance to survive.”
Lawyer for two police officers, Laurent-Frank Lienard, told French news broadcaster LCI that his clients did not hear Chouviat’s words.
Interior minister Christophe Castaner specifically referred to Chouviat’s case when he initially announced a ban on the use of chokeholds during police arrests earlier this month.
“No arrest should put lives at risk,” Castaner then said in the wake of Floyd’s death in the U.S.
Yet facing a string of protest actions from French police, the government last week backed away from the ban.
AP journalist Alexander Turnbull contributed to the story