16 Deaths in California Linked to Sedative Use During Police Encounters

california police sedative investigation

LOS ANGELES, CA (April 29, 2024)An Associated Press investigation has uncovered that at least 16 deaths occurred in California over the past decade following encounters with police where individuals were sedated by medical personnel. 


These incidents, which spanned locations including the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, and other parts of Orange and San Bernardino counties, involved the administration of the sedative midazolam, commonly known as Versed.


The inquiry highlighted that these deaths are part of a broader national concern, with over 1,000 fatalities documented across the United States where law enforcement used physical force or less-lethal weapons like Tasers. Approximately half of these deaths were reportedly linked to the physical force used by police.


Midazolam, which can suppress breathing, was used in 15 of the 16 cases in California, raising concerns about its safety when combined with police restraint techniques or the individual’s use of alcohol or other drugs. The 16th case involved lorazepam, a similar sedative, used under police restraint at a hospital.


This California police sedative investigation, a collaboration between the AP, FRONTLINE (PBS), and the Howard Centers for Investigative Journalism, calls into question the practice of using powerful sedatives during police interventions, especially for conditions like “excited delirium” — a term recently discredited by medical authorities in California.


As California leads with reforms, including banning “excited delirium” as a cause of death, the findings suggest a need for stricter controls and training on the use of sedatives in law enforcement settings to prevent future tragedies. 

For those affected by such incidents, legal consultation may provide a pathway to justice and reform. Contact RTM Law Firm to explore your rights and legal options in these complex cases. Our personal injury attorneys in California have extensive experience representing victims of police excessive force and will fight to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. Consultation is free.




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