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Tue, 06.02.1981

Long Beach Black student killed by the police

Ron Settles

On this date in 1981, Ron Settles was murdered while in police custody. Settles was a Black student athlete (football) at Long Beach State University in California.

The incident began when he was pulled over for speeding by the Signal Hills Police Department (SHPD) in Long Beach, CA. He was arrested after a scuffle with SHPD white officers. That night he was found hanged in a jail cell at the SHPD station. Police officials maintained Settles committed suicide, and no criminal charges were filed. His parents accused officers of killing their son and hanging him in a cell to cover up his murder.

In a subsequent coroner's inquest, attorney Johnny Cochran demonstrated the chokehold, which resulted in a jury's finding that Settles had died "at the hands of another." Moreover, the decision was reversed in court following the testimony of an expert (a Dr. Baden), who determined there was no evidence that Settles had died from hanging, but was most likely killed by a chokehold.  The case was settled in 1983, and though the family was awarded $1 million dollars, no officer was ever brought to trial.

Long Beach Press-Telegram
604 Pine Ave.
Long Beach, CA 90844
(562) 435-1161

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