Las Cruces officer heard saying 'I'm going to... choke you out' before suspect dies | KOB 4

Las Cruces officer heard saying 'I'm going to... choke you out' before suspect dies

Nathan O'Neal
Updated: June 08, 2020 06:21 PM
Created: June 08, 2020 04:56 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- KOB 4 obtained video that show the moment a Las Cruces police officer used a neck restraint maneuver on a man, which ultimately turned deadly. 

It all started with a traffic stop in February.

During the stop, police learn Antonio Valenzuela had a warrant for a probation and parole violation.

Valenzuela is then seen running.

Police video shows officers using tasers, at least twice, to try to stop Valenzuela, but they didn't work.

Eventually they catch up with Valenzuela and get him to the ground.

The struggle lasts for more than four minutes.

"I'm going to (expletive) choke you out," officer Christopher Smelser tells Valenzuela.

Valenzuela can be heard gasping for air.

He eventually died at the scene.

According to internal police records, Smelser used a lateral vascular neck restraint, a maneuver with a controversial history.

Following the incident, the neck restraint was banned by the police department. 

Smelser was also fired, and charged with involuntary manslaughter.

In a statement, the chief of the Las Cruces Police Department expressed his condolences to Valenzuela's family.

"Words are insufficient to bring comfort to Antonio Valenzuela's family, but I extend my sincere condolences for their loss," Chief Patrick Gallagher said.

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