Family claiming excessive force by Clovis police in woman's death

CLOVIS, Calif. (KFSN) -- Calls for justice as a family mourns the loss of Isabel De la Torre.

In a press conference, Attorney Edgar Flores said, "Her life and her tragic death should not be put on display but we know if we don't do it this way, it's just another cover-up."

Attorneys for the family were surrounded by advocates speaking out against what they call a case of police brutality.

Just before midnight on March 24, the 35-year-old was in her home suffering from an unknown medical emergency when her partner called 911.

Flores says, "A distress call cannot be a death sentence. This is a preventable death. Training, De-escalation, all of these phrases we consistently throw out there but never apply.

The formal complaint against the City of Clovis and unknown law enforcement officers says Isabel told officers their services were no longer needed, but that they "forced their way" into her home, then released a K-9 to bring Isabel to the ground.

Flores said, "After being dragged to her knees then the ground, she was piled like garbage, jumped on by a bunch of members of law enforcement with heavy equipment with weapons on their belts and she stops breathing."

When Action News initially covered the death, Clovis Police said that, per protocol, a use of force investigation was launched.

On April 12, Sgt. Jim Koch said, "At this time, they are checking back on exactly what happened, the officers that were all at the scene wrote reports that evening and those are being looked at right now. We are waiting for the results from the coroner's office so that we can take a look at the entire event."

That investigation is still ongoing and all officers remain on duty.

The department said that when the call came into 911, officers and medical aid rushed out to the apartment.

Officers approached first to make sure it was safe for medical crews to enter. They say they were allowed in by the caller -- a fact disputed in the lawsuit.

Police aren't commenting on camera as the investigation is ongoing but have provided the following statement, saying in part, "De La Torre became combative and charged at officers, which included a K-9 officer. De La Torre was restrained and placed in handcuffs. While restrained and awaiting EMS, De La Torre suffered a medical episode and stopped breathing."

They went on to say De La Torre was rushed to CRMC, where she died 24 hours later.

It was later determined that De La Torre had a potentially toxic level of methamphetamine in her system.

An official cause of death hasn't been released.

Clovis Police say they're prepared to release body camera footage once the coroners report, including toxicology, is complete.

The first scheduled court appearance for this case is February of next year.

Full statement from Clovis police:

The Clovis Police Department would like to update our community on the investigation of an in-custody death that occurred in late March, 2022, and correct some inaccurate information which has been provided to the media.

On the evening of March 24, 2022 just before midnight, our communications center received a 911 call from an apartment complex in the 200 block of W. Alamos Ave. The caller requested help, telling the 911 operator that there was an adult in the apartment acting erratically. The 911 dispatcher could hear sounds of a disturbance occurring in the background. Officers and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) were dispatched immediately. Officers approached the apartment first to make sure the apartment was safe for EMS to enter. Officers identified themselves through the unlocked door and were provided access to the apartment by the caller.

Once in the apartment, officers made contact with an individual later identified as 35-year-old Isabel De La Torre. De La Torre became combative and charged at officers, which included a K-9 officer. De La Torre was restrained and placed in handcuffs. While restrained and awaiting EMS, De La Torre suffered a medical episode and stopped breathing. CPR was administered and, once stabilized by EMS, De La Torre was transported to Community Regional Medical Center. 24 hours after being hospitalized, De La Torre passed away. It was later determined that De La Torre had a potentially toxic level of methamphetamine in her system.

We understand the community's concern over this incident and the desire to have as much confirmed information as possible.

We are awaiting the full report from the Fresno County Coroner's Office. In the meantime, we are limited in terms of sharing specific details of this ongoing investigation and we appreciate your patience.

We want to express our condolences to the family and friends of Isabel De La Torre. Immediately following the unfortunate incident, and several times since, we reached out to the family to provide details of the incident. At this time we have not yet received a response.
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