By JACQUES BILLEAUD Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) – The city of Phoenix has challenged a black man’s claim he couldn’t breathe as police held him down in a fatal arrest attempt nearly five years ago outside a community center, according to recently unsealed court records that provide the city’s most detailed public account of the death.
Muhammad Abdul Muhaymin died in a fight in January 2017 with officers who were called to the community center after a town worker attempted to deny Muhaymin, who was homeless and has schizophrenia, access to a bathroom because he had a dog with him. The fight erupted when officers attempted to arrest Muhaymin after learning he had a warrant pending for failing to appear in court on a misdemeanor charge of possession of drug accessories.
In an unsealed dossier on Tuesday, city lawyers admitted Muhaymin did not punch or kick officers, but said he actively resisted his arrest and fought several times with the officers trying to stop him. They said toxicology tests showed Muhaymin had a high level of methamphetamine in his system when he died.
When responding to Muhaymin’s statement that he could not breathe, the lawyers said Muhaymin “exerted tremendous force in his resistance” and that officers noticed that he was breathing and nothing was in the way of his breathing. ability to take in air.
“The words ‘I can’t breathe’ don’t mean you literally have no air,” David Chami, one of the attorneys representing Muhaymin’s sister in a death trial, said Wednesday. âIt means you are having trouble breathing. They (the town lawyers) know that.