In Paris, Driver Told Police, 'I'm Suffocating'

George Floyd killing renews interest in fatal encounter near the Eiffel Tower
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2020 6:30 PM CDT
'I'm Suffocating,' Said French Driver Held by Police
Cedric Chouviat, who died in January, and his wife, Doria Chouviat.   (Courtesy of Doria Chouviat via AP)

Seven times, Cedric Chouviat called out, "I'm suffocating" while held to the ground by police in Paris after a traffic stop. The 42-year-old delivery driver, who was white, died two days later in a hospital. Chouviat's family and human rights groups are asking the police for answers changes to their restraint policies, the New York Times reports. The encounter, which occurred Jan. 3, was captured on cellphone video. A lawyer for the family called for an end to the "persistence of police violence" at a press conference Tuesday. Police said they stopped Chouviat because they thought he was looking at his phone while driving a delivery scooter. An autopsy found that Chouviat, who was placed in a chokehold by police, had a broken larynx. It also found indications that he'd been asphixiated, per the Guardian. The George Floyd protests have renewed interest in Chouviat's case. "France is not the United States," said William Bourdon, the lawyer, "but France is getting closer to the United States."

The government has done little in the case so far, other than say questions about it deserve answers. After talking to officials in January, family lawyers said the officers appeared to have the "absolute and total support of their hierarchy." The four police officers involved were not questioned until last week. They haven't been charged or suspended from duty. "We don't understand why they still haven’t been suspended," Chouviat's daughter said Tuesday." Amnesty International pointed out that other countries, because of the risk of fatal injury, have banned the practice of applying weight to the person's torso as they're being held face down. Chouviat and the officers are heard insulting each other on the video. "Without your uniform, in the street you are nothing at all," Chouviat says, and one pushes him several times. The officers sound upset that he's recording them. It happened near the Eiffel Tower. Chouviat lived with his wife and five children in a Paris suburb. (More George Floyd stories.)

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