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Excessive force lawsuit says man died after Issaquah police broke his neck

An Issaquah family is suing the Issaquah Police Department for using excessive force.

Lawyers say a 66-year-old man, who only spoke Chinese, died after Issaquah police handcuffed him and broke his neck.

Police went to Wang Shen Leng’s home in August after a neighbor called in a noise complaint. Police reports indicate they thought it was a possible domestic violence call.

Leng was living with his wife, who also does not speak English. He was diagnosed with a Alzheimer’s a few of years ago – something officers didn’t know when they responded. The report says Leng was “waving his arms and yelling” in the home, and officers moved to cuff him.

“The police proceeded to come in, to separate the two, and to force Mr. Leng down onto the couch--pushing on his neck in such a way that it ended up breaking his neck,” said Harry Williams, an attorney for Leng’s family.

Leng died about a month later.

The police report said Leng "went limp" and officers called for medical aid.

“A healthy person, who that morning had walked to the Issaquah Community Center,” Williams said. “And after an interaction with police, someone who was never conscious again and died a month later,” he said.

Now the Issaquah Police Department and the city of Issaquah are getting sued for excessive force.

His wife of 30 years didn't want to be on camera, but told KIRO7 that they took walks every day, she would cook for him, and they were happy together.

A neighbor of Leng, Jim Lemming, said he called 911.

He said they've had trouble with people hanging around the dumpsters at the apartment complex before.

“When I heard real heavy banging is when I called 911 without knowing what was going on, I figured better safe than sorry,” he said.

He didn't know that Leng had died until KIRO7 told him.

“Sad the way ended, everyone has 20/20 hindsight,” Lemming said.

The lawsuit says the King County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Leng's death, a homicide.

Attorneys say the actions of the responding officers, were "unconstitutional and unlawful."

“They didn't exercise any patience and call a translation line or try to figure out what was happening. Instead they went into the apartment, physically moved people, and unfortunately Mr. Leng ended up dying,” Williams said.

Both the city of Issaquah and the Police Department declined an interview.

Police called in the King County Sheriff’s Office to investigate after Leng died and that investigation is ongoing.

A press release from the city does not acknowledge officers broke Leng's neck, and says "our sympathies are with Mr. Leng's family."

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