Family seeks $1 million after man died in Bellingham police custody

The son of a man who died while in Bellingham police custody has filed a precursor to a lawsuit with the city over his father’s death.

Documents obtained by The Bellingham Herald say Joshua Eldard filed a claim in March seeking $1 million in damages for the death of Robert Eldard, also known as Robert Gagnon.

As of Thursday, the city had not responded to Joshua Eldard’s claim but city officials said they plan to respond, the newspaper reported.

In the claim, it says on March 14, 2018, less than eight minutes transpired from the time Eldard was restrained on the ground by Bellingham Police officers to the time he lost consciousness. Police had responded to a call at a former homeless center for a man who was exhibiting signs of mental and medical crises and appeared to be suffering from delusions and paranoia.

The Whatcom County Medical Examiner said cardiac complications caused by acute methamphetamine use led to Robert Eldard’s death.

"Video evidence establishes that while Mr. Eldard indicated he could not breathe, three police officers continued to detain him on the ground, handcuffed, until he lost consciousness. Instead of immediately rendering aid, the officers did not notice Mr. Eldard’s condition, and he died," according to a statement provided by Dan Fiorito, the Eldard’s attorney, on behalf of Robert Eldard’s family.

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