Jurupa Valley, CA – The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department released bodycam and store surveillance videos on Monday of the arrest of a convicted felon who died of an overdose in police custody (video below).
Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said that it began when 33-year-old Ernie Serrano’s family called 911 on Dec. 14 and complained that he was “not acting rationally, and was out of control,” KABC reported.
Officers responded to the home and found Serrano “belligerent, aggressive and displaying obvious signs of being under the influence,” according to Sheriff Bianco.
“Deputies used a Taser to force Mr. Serrano to comply,” the sheriff said. “He was treated at a local hospital and taken to the Robert Presley Detention Center.”
Serrano was arrested and booked on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance and felony obstructing a peace officer, KABC reported.
He was released on his own recognizance the next morning because of pandemic restrictions.
That night, Serrano went to the Stater Bros. grocery store on Crestmore Road in Jurupa Valley and began exhibiting bizarre behavior, KABC reported.
Sheriff Bianco said Serrano floated in and out of the store for “two to three hours.”
The sheriff said the suspect was “cutting in front of people in the shopping aisles” and tried multiple times to make purchases using his driver’s license for payment, KABC reported.
A bystander filmed Serrano’s arrest and shared it on social media where it quickly went viral.
On Dec. 21, Sheriff Bianco released the two additional videos that showed what happened leading up to Serrano’s arrest and after he encountered police.
Store surveillance video showed Serrano wandering around holding a bag of groceries and acting strangely, KABC reported.
Multiple store employees tried to get him to move out of the way or leave, but Serrano stayed, the video showed.
Staff called a security guard to remove the man from a checkout lane but when he tried to escort Serrano from the store, the suspect became violent.
The security guard fought with Serrano for almost 10 minutes while the suspect resisted his efforts to move him to the front of the store, KABC reported.
Sheriff Bianco said Serrano tried to take the security guard’s gun during the struggle.
The security guard deployed a Taser and pepper spray but neither had any impact on Serrano, KABC reported.
The videos showed that when police arrived at the grocery store, the fight was still in progress and the security guard looked relieved to turn the problem over to deputy’s to handle.
“Our deputies intervened and tried to detain Mr. Serrano, but he did not comply,” Sheriff Bianco said. “A Taser was used, and he fell to the ground, but then he got back on his feet.”
Videos showed that officers used their batons to try to get subdue Serrano but the man did not seem to be affected by the blows.
It took four deputies to take the suspect into custody but they eventually pinned him down against a checkout counter, the video showed.
It took two sets of handcuffs to restrain the agitated suspect, KABC reported.
“My name is Ernie Serrano!” he shouted and gave deputies his date of birth. “Let me go! Let me go! Why did you Tase me?'”
In the videos, Serrano was bleeding from a cut over his eye and he kept spitting blood out of his mouth.
Sheriff Bianco said deputies put a “spit shield” over his head as a precaution, KABC reported.
“Take the mask off!” Serrano demanded.
One of the deputies who had participated in Serrano’s arrest the prior night told the others that the suspect had a really high blood pressure when they took him to the hospital, KABC reported.
Videos showed that deputies held Serrano chest down on the checkout counter for almost eight minutes and repeatedly asked him to calm down.
Suddenly, the video showed, Serrano became quiet and stopped moving, KABC reported.
“He’s stopped breathing,” a sheriff’s corporal said in the video.
Deputies moved Serrano to the floor and began chest compression, the video showed.
Paramedics who had been staged outside the store came in and tried to revive the suspect, KABC reported.
He was pronounced dead at Riverside Community Hospital.
Sheriff Bianco said Monday that the preliminary autopsy results indicated that Serrano had died of acute methamphetamine intoxication with fatal arrhythmia, KABC reported.
Serrano’s family has disputed claims that he tried to grab the security guard’s weapon and said that the position deputies held him in contributed to his death.
The family has hired an attorney and said they are seeking an independent autopsy.
Protesters gathered in the parking lot outside the grocery store on Dec. 20 to demand justice for Serrano.
Sheriff Bianco said that Serrano had several prior felony convictions in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, including one for assault on a police officer, KABC reported.
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. WARNING – Graphic Content and Obscene Language: