LAPD said sergeant violated policy when kneeling on Pelicans C Jaxson Hayes' neck during arrest

The Los Angeles Police Commission determined that an LAPD sergeant violated policy when he kneeled on the neck of New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes during his arrest last year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

LAPD Sgt. Darren Holst started kneeling on the back of Hayes’ neck while arresting him last July, which prompted Hayes to shout out “I can’t breathe,” several times. Holst eventually stopped, and Hayes was taken into custody.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore and commissioners agreed the “knee-on-the-neck maneuver” that Holst used went against department protocols. It was determined that Holst put his knee on Hayes’ neck twice for 15 seconds in total, and that it “resulted in unintentional but direct pressure to Hayes’ trachea or windpipe.”

“An officer with similar training and experience as Sergeant Holst, in the same situation, would not reasonably believe that the applying direct pressure to the trachea or windpipe was proportional, objectively reasonable, or necessary,” the board found, via the Los Angeles Times.

Hayes was arrested last July at a Los Angeles-area home that he was staying at when police said they were called to the home on a domestic disturbance call. A cousin of Hayes’ girlfriend called police and said she was texted by Hayes’ girlfriend that he had become loud and violent.

Footage of the incident showed police speaking with Hayes and others in the driveway. Hayes became agitated and started arguing with officers, who didn’t let him go back inside.

Things then escalated quickly, and officers started wrestling him to the ground. That’s when Holst placed his knee into Hayes’ neck. Another officer stepped in and told him to stop, which is when Hayes was heard gasping, “I’m a blessed soul.”

Hayes was later tased and taken into custody. He was charged with 12 different counts, including a pair of domestic battery charges and three counts of inflicting corporal injury to a spouse. No felony charges were eventually filed against Hayes, and he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of false imprisonment and resisting an officer in February. He was sentenced to three years probation, 450 hours of community service and a year of domestic violence classes.

The LAPD faced significant backlash after footage of Hayes’ arrest was published. The LAPD outlawed neck restraints after the murder of George Floyd, and it quickly launched an investigation.

Hayes, 22, averaged a career-high 9.3 points and 4.5 rebounds last season, his third with the Pelicans.

Jaxson Hayes of the New Orleans Pelicans
An officer kneeled in the back of Jaxson Hayes' neck twice during his arrest last summer, something the LAPD determined this week violated their policy. (Jason Miller/Getty Images) (Jason Miller via Getty Images)