The family of a Black man who died after police responded to his daughter’s 911 call about a mental health crisis he was having in March, has filed a suit against the city of Chula Vista.
Oral Nunis Sr., 56, was visiting his daughter on March 13, when she called 911 out of concern for his mental health after he had a bad reaction to a medication.
Carl Douglas, the family’s attorney, said on Nov. 24, the date the family’s legal claim was announced, the city “sent these trained killers, rather than mental health experts,” to respond to Nunis when his daughter called for help.
His family claims officers used unreasonable force when detaining Nunis, and that his race impacted his treatment.
“Were he not a Black man, these officers would have treated him with more humanity,” Douglas said. “Regrettably, we say, if Oral Nunis Sr. had not been a Black man, he would still be alive today.”
Police said Nunis, a Jamaican immigrant who owned a trucking company, was trying to jump out of a second-story window when five officers responded and detained the unarmed man.
Although Nunis was just 5 feet 4 inches and weighed less than 150 pounds, officers threw him into the street and pinned him down with their collective body weight, Douglas said.
He was placed in a WRAP restraint device and a spit hood was placed over his head. Nunis became unresponsive while in an ambulance and was pronounced dead at a hospital.
“Our nuclear family has been destroyed and we’re just coming to grips with it. We’re trying to deal with the situation at hand, the best we can, and we’re just asking for some type of answers,” said Roxie, Nunis’ wife.
Douglas said it’s likely Nunis’ daughter will never call 911 again, and that a team of people trained to deal with mental health crises should have responded to the call. Police said they restrained Nunis to keep him from hurting himself and others.
The San Diego County Medical Examiner has yet to release the results of Nunis’ autopsy, reportedly because the Chula Vista Police Department has sealed the case. The Medical Examiner’s Office can’t release any information about the autopsy, even its status, a spokeswoman has said. The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office will decide whether there was criminal wrongdoing before the results are made public.
The family completed an independent autopsy, but the results can’t be certified until the toxicology report is received from the county.
Douglas believes that the county is withholding the autopsy results from the family, and that Nunis likely died of positional asphyxiation from the weight of the officers on top of him.
Body camera footage of the detention has also not yet been released.
“The City of Chula Vista understands and shares the public’s and the family’s desire to have all of their questions answered about this incident. However, it is premature and inappropriate to come to any conclusions at this time,” the city said in a statement on Tuesday, calling Nunis’ passing “tragic.”