An inquest jury has heard that Edson Da Costa was “choking” as five police officers were on top of him trying to handcuff him.
Edson died after being stopped by police in Beckton, east London, in June 2017. His death was one of a number of black men who died after contact with the cops, and it sparked angry protests.
Claude Greenaway was travelling in a car with Edson when he was stopped. He said that Edson was “not trying to resist” as officers had him on the ground.
“I think he was already choking,” Claude told the jury at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court on Thursday.
The court heard that one officer had Edson in a headlock and another kneed him in the side. “He was shaking,” said Claude. “They were big guys. They were acting like it was WWF. I relive it every day. I have nightmares about it.”
Claude said that one officer sprayed CS gas into Edson’s face while he was on the ground.
He tried to push officers off Edson and saw that Edson had stopped moving. Claude then saw something coming out of Edson’s mouth. When he told officers to call an ambulance, he was told that they were professionals who knew what they were doing.
“I felt he was gone,” said Claude. “I kept saying, ‘You’ve killed him, you’ve killed him.’”
Claude denied that he had been involved in drug dealing on the day that the car was stopped. He denied that he, Edson and Jussara Gomes, who was driving the car, were linked to the “Portuguese Mafia” gang.
The coroner Nadia Persaud told the court on Wednesday that various incidents are said to show a link between Edson and the Portuguese Mafia. She said this intelligence “remains untested”.
The court has heard that a police car with five plain clothes cops stopped the car that Edson was travelling in. Officers then restrained Edson in a face down position and handcuffed him, before spraying him with CS gas.
Persaud said, “At some stage before being restrained, Mr Da Costa put a number of wraps containing drugs in his mouth.”
Some wraps fell out of his mouth during the restraint. Edson then became unresponsive and was placed in the recovery position. Paramedics arrived and took over attempts to resuscitate him.
Edson was stopped by police on 15 June and died on 21 June in Newham University Hospital.
Persaud said this version of events may change as evidence is given to the inquest.
The jury will consider whether “unreasonable actions” by police contributed to Edson’s death.
A statement from Edson’s father Ginario was read to the court on Wednesday. He said that Edson had worked hard to learn English after moving to Britain from Portugal at the age of five. Ginario said Edson was a “clean-living boy” who made some “bad” friendships when he was around 18 years old.
He said that being a father “came very naturally” to Edson when his child was born in 2014.
Ginario said that Edson’s mother, who had lived in Portugal, was prevented from attending Edson’s funeral because she was refused a visa. “I think this was too much for her,” he said.
The jury heard that she was found drowned in a river in Portugal following Edson’s death.
Ginario also described seeing Edson after his death. “No parent should have to see their child in the condition that I saw Edson that morning,” he said.
“I have waited almost two years to know what happened to my boy that night. As a family we deserve to have answers.”
The inquest continues.