Atlanta committee OKs nearly $4 million payment in police custody death

Atlanta could pay nearly $4 million to the family of a man who died last year during an encounter with police if a settlement approved by the city council’s public safety committee is approved by the full council.

Ricardo Dorado Jr., 33, a father of four from Nebraska, became unresponsive after being beaten with batons and handcuffed face down inside a southwest Atlanta gas station, according to an incident report. 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.

A police report said Dorado was acting “violent and tumultuous” at the time.

In their efforts to restrain Dorado, officers used Tasers and struck him repeatedly with their city-issued batons, according to the incident report. Dorado locked himself inside the gas station first, and later a convenience store bathroom, before being handcuffed, officers wrote.

The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Dorado’s death a homicide, caused by prone restraint cardiac arrest. Officials also noted he had methamphetamine in his system at the time.

“It is my opinion that Ricardo Dorado Jr. died of cardiac arrest while being restrained by law enforcement in the prone position,” the medical examiner wrote in his report. “This was complicated by coronary artery disease, methamphetamine toxicity, and blunt head trauma during an exertional apprehension (agitated delirium) by law enforcement officers.”

A 2020 investigation by two news stations in Minneapolis and Denver found at least 107 police prone restraint deaths nationwide since 2010, amounting to $70 million in settlements and verdicts.

The Atlanta City Council’s public safety committee on Monday signed off on a payment of $3.75 million to Dorado’s estate and its attorneys, Banks Weaver LLC. While no lawsuit was filed, both the city and the Atlanta Police Department were served an ante-litem notice of the family’s intent to sue.

The full council will consider the settlement at its Oct. 2 meeting. Five members of the council’s public safety committee voted in favor of the resolution, while two others were away at the time of the vote.

Before voting, the committee went into executive session to discuss the pending litigation.

In his police report, Officer Quinn Green described Dorado’s action as “being violent and tumultuous in nature due to illegal drug use.”

Police tried twice to stun the man with a Taser near the gas station, but it was ineffective, the officers wrote. At some point, Dorado reportedly took an officer’s radio and swung it at officers.

Attempts to pepper spray Dorado were also ineffective, police said.

After running into the convenience store and holding the doors closed with his T-shirt, Dorado reportedly locked himself inside a bathroom. Officers were eventually able to open the restroom door, at which point Dorado came out “swinging and kicking,” they said. Police allege he grabbed several bottles of wine from the store’s shelves and hurled them at officers at once.

The officers drew their batons and hit Dorado as they tried to restrain him, they said, but he still resisted.

He was eventually caught, turned over on his stomach and handcuffed, according to the report.

“After minutes of no fighting, Mr. Dorado was uncuffed and turned over on his back to be administered NARCAN and chest compressions,” officers wrote. “He was not alert, not conscious, but was breathing.”