An El Centro family is suing the California Highway Patrol over the death of a father of two, who was an army war veteran, during a violent encounter with officers which was caught on cell phone video.
“I just want to make sure people are aware of what happened and I don’t want him to be forgotten,” said Katherine Hawk, Yancy’s former wife and the mother of his two children.
Tommy Junior Yancy, 32, was a war veteran who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. When he returned home to El Centro, his family said Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder set in.
“They declared him to be disabled,” Hawk said.
On Mother’s Day, 2014, Tommy was driving to the store. A California Highway Patrol officer pulled Tommy over for having a license plate in the dashboard, and not attached to the front of his car, said Dave Fox, a Solana Beach attorney representing Yancy's children in the lawsuit.
“I think what happened here is they just went overboard,” Fox said.
There is no cell phone video of the initial traffic stop.
“The entire situation was senseless,” said Loretta Mira, Tommy’s cousin.
The cell phone video starts with Tommy on the ground and the police dog biting him. Tommy is yelling that he has PTSD.
A CHP officer used a taser on Tommy. Later, the video shows tommy lying on the ground on his stomach, voluntarily putting his hand behind his back to be cuffed.
"Mr. Yancy is handcuffed, on the ground lying down, completely unarmed," Fox said. "And at that point, for five (officers) to be piling on him, particularly one of them to be putting so much pressure on his neck that his hyoid bone breaks, that’s where there’s just no excuse."
The hyoid bone is a floating bone in the middle of the neck. In forensics a broken hyoid bone often points to strangulation.
“That wasn’t right what they did to him, because they didn’t have a right to do that,” said Tommy's son, 11-year-old Jayden Yancy.
10News reached out to CHP for their response to the allegations. A spokeswoman told us they do not comment on pending lawsuits.