Atlanta City Council approves $3.75M settlement in police custody death

Ricardo Dorado Jr. died last year after being handcuffed face-down at a gas station
Ricardo Dorado Jr., 33, died last year during an encounter with police at a southwest Atlanta gas station.

Credit: Obituary photo

Credit: Obituary photo

Ricardo Dorado Jr., 33, died last year during an encounter with police at a southwest Atlanta gas station.

The Atlanta City Council on Monday approved a nearly $4 million settlement with the family of a man who died last year after being handcuffed face-down at a convenience store.

Attorneys for the family of Ricardo Dorado Jr. say the 33-year-old father of four experienced a mental health crisis at a southwest Atlanta gas station, but it was the way Atlanta police officers subdued Dorado that led to his death, the Fulton County medical examiner determined.

“A review of the bodycam footage in this case clearly reflects that the egregious misconduct of several officers employed by the City of Atlanta Police Department caused Ricky’s untimely death,” said Gabe Banks, the lead attorney for Dorado’s family. “Ricky was unarmed, and his death was completely preventable.”

In a legal notice informing the city and its police department of their intent to sue, attorneys for Dorado’s family said the Nebraska man was handcuffed face-down for more than 15 minutes as numerous officers stood by and failed to intervene. One officer kept his knee on the small of Dorado’s back while another held his feet up “in the hogtied position,” they wrote.

Though no lawsuit was formally filed, city officials agreed to pay out $3.75 million to settle the case. The initial notice sent to the city sought $17.5 million in damages.

The medical examiner’s office ruled Dorado’s death a homicide, caused by prone restraint cardiac arrest. The investigator also noted that Dorado had methamphetamine in his system at the time and that he’d been struck in the head by officers’ batons during their attempts to detain him.

The ME’s report said Dorado, who had “a history of schizophrenia and methamphetamine use, was reportedly exhibiting an altered mental status while assaulting others and damaging property.”

A police incident report described his actions as “being violent and tumultuous in nature due to illegal drug use.”

Officers were called to the BP along Windsor Street about 3 a.m. on Aug. 21, 2022, after receiving reports of a man vandalizing vehicles and gas pumps. Police unsuccessfully tried to subdue Dorado with Tasers and pepper spray, according to an incident report. At some point, Dorado reportedly took an officer’s radio and swung it at the police, it said.

Dorado used a T-shirt to bar the doors of the gas station and later locked himself inside a bathroom, according to the report. When officers opened the door, police said he came out “swinging and kicking.”

He reportedly grabbed several bottles of wine from the store’s shelves and hurled them at officers, who reportedly struck him with their city-issued batons.

He was eventually handcuffed outside the store and left face-down on the concrete for more than 15 minutes, attorneys alleged in their February legal notice. Banks wrote that one officer placed a knee on Dorado’s arm while another jammed “the full weight of his body” into the man’s back.

After Dorado become unresponsive, an officer wrote they turned him onto his back, administered the opioid-reversal drug Narcan and began chest compressions.

He was taken to the former Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center and died hours later, according to the ME’s office. The GBI was asked to investigate the in-custody death and the Atlanta Police Department launched an internal probe into the officers’ actions.

Three officers involved were placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of those investigations, a department spokesman said last week. In August, the GBI submitted its findings to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, which allowed the Dorado family’s attorneys to view the police body camera footage for the first time.

Citing the two ongoing investigations, Atlanta police have declined to release the video.

Monday’s council meeting was also attended by the family of Johnny Hollman, a 62-year-old deacon who died Aug. 11 after being Tased by an Atlanta police officer at the scene of a traffic crash.

Several of Hollman’s family members and supporters pleaded with city officials to release the footage. Hollman’s family and their attorneys were allowed to view a 5-minute snippet of the encounter but haven’t seen the entire video, they said.

The council has OK’d millions in legal payouts this year to settle lawsuits and other claims against the city. As of last week, that figure was more than $12.6 million, with Atlanta’s police department racking up the biggest litigation costs.

Prior to Monday’s settlement with Dorado’s family, lawsuits involving APD totaled more than $4.6 million this year, representing over a third of the city’s total settlement payouts.

— Staff writer Riley Bunch contributed to this article.