One night in July 2008, U.S. Border Patrol agents with the Department of Homeland Security found Tomas Sanchez Orzuna on a street in San Clemente, sprayed him in the face with toxic chemicals, handcuffed him, beat him, took him to a check point station and hosed him down so violently with water he died from a heart attack while officers refused to rendered medical aid.
That's the gist of a 2010 federal civil rights lawsuit filed in Orange County by Orzuna's distraught, surviving parents.
"The involved border patrol agents should have known that [pepper spray], which they utilized against [the victim], could cause death in overweight people, such as [Orzuna]," the lawsuit asserts. "They also knew, or should have known, that when mixed with water the spray could be fatal."
The water-chemical mix caused "extreme pain" before Orzuna fell unconscious and died, according to the complaint, which goes on to call the agents' "excessive force" conduct "careless," "cruel," "heinous" and so "unconscionable that they shock the conscience."
The lawsuit also alleges that agents tried to cover up their excessive force by falsely claiming the victim had resisted arrest.
Government officials inside the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing, but thought $15,000 was adequate compensation for the loss of Orzuna, who was born in 1969.
(By the way, that amount includes all lawyer fees and expenses.)
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
This week, the victim's parents--David Sanchez Adorno and Julia Orzuna Lopez--accepted the amount and U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna closed the case inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana.