Columbus residents and police expert weigh in on Hector Arreola case and settlement

Tuesday the Mayor and Columbus city council voted to approve a settlement of $500,000 to be paid to the family of Hector Arreola.
Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 10:23 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The family of a Columbus man who died while in police custody back in 2017 is wondering what’s next, now that they’ve reached a settlement with the city.

Tuesday, the Mayor and Columbus city council voted to approve a settlement of $500,000 to be paid to the family of Hector Arreola.

According to District Attorney Mark Jones, he is planning to bring the case before a grand jury. He even appointed a special prosecutor, Chris Breault, to assist on the case.

A statement to News Leader 9 from Breault reads as followed:

“It is my sincere hope that the settlement of the civil case is the right outcome for everyone involved. My role as Special Prosecutor is to fully investigate the death of Hector Arreola, including whether Columbus Police used excessive (and lethal) force. As directed by District Attorney, I am going to use every power necessary to investigate and present the case to the Grand Jury. District Attorney Jones has made it a priority to fully investigate every complaint of Police Misconduct, and the resolution of this civil case will not deter from that.”


Chris Breault

According to Wane Hailes, the President of the Columbus Chapter of the NAACP, the Arreola family reached out to him and the NAACP in 2017 to assist in whatever they needed to bring the 30 year old’s death to the forefront, and shed light on police brutality.

“If you really want to think about it. We had our own George Floyd situation. He couldn’t breathe either. This man was on his neck. Back neck and he was hollering he couldn’t breathe either. 13 times.”, said Wane Hailes, the President of the Columbus Chapter of NAACP. “But the bottom line it’s not over. I think they would agree, there’s still three police officers working today on the police force.”

According to police, they responded to Arreola’s call where officers say they found him high on Meth.

News Leader 9 talked to a local police expert from East Alabama about the case, Peter Markow. He told News Leader 9 he believed that could have been a contributing factor in Arreola’s death, and could have warranted the use of excessive force by the officers.

Others around Columbus told News Leader 9, they think the officers, who are currently still working with the Columbus Police Department, believe they should have to answer to a grand jury for their actions.

“For the person to die in custody, that’s not uncommon because these guys put all kinds of things in their body and then they crash. Once they come down off their high and crash, a lot of times they go into cardiac arrest or they overdose.”, said Markow. “That’s probably one of the worst things you can face as a law enforcement officer when it comes to use of force because there is nothing in black and white when that says, this is going to stop this guy from fighting. When they have things like meth or crack cocaine in their system, they get strong and you have to elevate your force.”

“There’s absolutely no price for somebody’s life, whether it’s $300,000 or 3 million.”, said Rebecca Hahn, a Columbus woman.

Initially the Georgia Bureau of Investigation deemed the death an overdose but it was recently overturned and ruled as a homicide.

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