Vigil held for Hayward man who died in police custody

HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- A vigil was held Monday for a Hayward man who died in police custody. Two years ago today, James Greer was pulled over and ultimately tased three times. The entire incident was captured by police body cameras.

It was a gathering to remember the 46-year-old who died following a DUI traffic stop. Many who gathered on Monday wore t-shirts that read, "Justice for James 'Nate' Greer." They say he didn't deserve to die.

Two years ago Deana Abello lost her best friend. She and her ex-husband James Greer were always close.

"It's hard to believe he's not here anymore," she said. "We still wait for him to walk through that front door."

RELATED: I-TEAM INVESTIGATION: Hayward family blames police for man's death

In May 2014, Greer was stopped by Hayward police for driving erratically.

In video obtained by the ABC7 News I-Team, he's seen cooperating with officers as Greer is given a sobriety test. He tells police he has a stomach hernia and a knee injury. But then he becomes anxious and takes a few steps back from police. That's when officers pulled him down.

Officer: "Don't be walkin' away."
Greer: "Wait, wait, wait, wait, what are you guys doing to me?"

Police were unable to handcuff Greer who weighed 380 pounds.

According to the police report, Greer was tased three times and restrained. Police had him on the ground for more than six minutes when officers noticed something was wrong.

Officer: "He's unconscious. You alright dude?"

The family's attorney, Fulvio Cajina, claims police failed to give him immediate medical attention.

"You see his lips look blue and discolored," he said. "This is someone in urgent medical distress."

Greer died at the hospital an hour later. The medical examiner determined he died from exerting himself while under the influence of PCP.

"You just see so many officers gathered around him doing absolutely nothing to help him," Abello said. "It makes him question their training, or their empathy, or even morals."

In court documents, the Alameda County District Attorney concluded "police used reasonable force."

When it comes to police custody cases like this, the Alameda district attorney only investigates a death when police fire their weapons. The family is pushing the county to change that.

"And in our case, there was no firearms so the DA had no clue that James was killed in police custody," said Abello.

The family has since sued the police department and the city of Hayward. Both the city and police declined to talk to us on Monday because of pending litigation.
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