Recorded on video tightly wrapping a towel around a handcuffed patient’s face before punching him, a Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) firefighter recently accepted a 12-day suspension for violating department policy. The firefighter initially rejected the suspension before videos of the incident were released to the public.
On March 20, 2019, Earl Hatton was handcuffed and detained at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center on suspicion of assaulting a woman with a brick and resisting arrest. According to hospital surveillance video and police body cam footage, an unidentified Los Angeles Police Department officer threw a towel over Hatton’s face prior to LAFD emergency medical technician Derek Farrow wrapping the towel tightly around Hatton’s head and punching him twice in the face.
With the towel wrapped around his head, Hatton yelled, “I can’t breathe!”
After the incident, Farrow informed LAFD investigators that he struck Hatton to prevent him from biting an LAPD officer. Farrow explained that he used the towel because Hatton was aggressively spitting at them.
According to the hospital surveillance videos, Hatton does not appear to bite anyone. Although the LAPD body cam videos reportedly depict the violent incidents, police officials have refused to release the footage to the public.
Hatton was transported from the LAPD’s 77th Street Station to the jail ward at County-USC after suffering a self-inflicted cut on his forehead from banging his head inside a patrol car, according to police records. He was later convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.
LAFD investigators found that Farrow’s use of force was “excessive and unauthorized” and determined that wrapping the towel around Hatton’s face was “improper.” Hit with a 12-day suspension, Farrow initially rejected the suspension until reports of the incident were recently made public.
With several videos of the incident being released to the public, Farrow has changed his mind and accepted the 12-day suspension against him for repeatedly striking Hatton.