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Family sues local police department, claims excessive force in man's death

WCVB Boston logo WCVB Boston 5/5/2021
a man standing in a room: Robert Miller © Provided by WCVB Boston Robert Miller

The family of a Cape Cod man who died two years ago is suing the local police department, claiming that excessive force used by officers led to his death.

Attorney Howard Friedman is representing the family of Robert Miller in its civil rights lawsuit against the Barnstable Police Department.

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"They expected their father would be around to be with them in years to come," Friedman said.

Family members say they called Barnstable police on April 16, 2019, because the 63-year-old Miller was having a mental health emergency in his Hyannis home.

The family claims that the responding officers forced Miller chest down onto the floor, where he could not breathe.

"This is what we see frequently in cases where a person struggling to breathe, police officers believe that's fighting," Friedman said. "It's hard to be fighting when your hands are underneath you and you're lying on your stomach with a police officer, or two officers at one point, on his back."

The lawsuit names two Barnstable police officers who responded to Miller's home.

Friedman says Miller was not armed, did not commit a crime and did not threaten police during the incident. He also says medical professionals should have been part of the initial police response.

"In this situation, where he wasn't threatening and didn't have a weapon, it's better to just back off, get other people there and handle it safely," Friedman said.

In an email sent to NewsCenter 5, the Barnstable Police Department stated that it does not have any comment on the pending litigation at this time.

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