Court passing laws.
Court passing laws. Representation image. Pixabay

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against officials in Arkansas' Saline County by the family of a Latino man, Daniel Adrian Barajas, on Thursday.

A specialty welder, Daniel was hit and killed by three vehicles on Jan. 15, 2022, while he was on an Arkansas highway. The federal lawsuit, which was filed on his 40th birth anniversary, was part of his family's ongoing questions connected to his encounter with Saline County sheriff's deputies that he had before the incident.

Lawyer Mike Laux, who was representing the Barajas family, filed the lawsuit against the deputies, who interacted with Daniel before his death. The suit, filed in a district court in New Mexico, where Daniel stayed, was also against officials at the Saline County Coroner's Office, who investigated the case.

Xexilia and Raquel Barajas, Daniel's sisters, told NBC News Thursday morning, "We want answers and we want closure. We miss him so much."

In the lawsuit, it was alleged that apart from racial profiling, excessive force was used, and that there were violations of due process.

Laux and Daniel's family were also part of the League of United Latin American Citizens' press conference on Thursday. The annual conference of the Latino civil rights organization was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

LULAC believes Daniel's death was connected to the issue of racial profiling during police traffic stops that has affected drivers of color. In Oct 2021, a New York Times investigation found that since 2016 police officers in the U.S. had killed more than 400 drivers or passengers, who were not carrying a knife or a gun or under pursuit for a violent crime.

Daniel often traveled the country for jobs. Before his death, he had finished his work in West Virginia and was driving to Texas to meet his sisters, who had recently given birth.

On the way, he had stopped in Arkansas, and was sleeping in his car that was parked in an on-ramp. At around 4.35 a.m., he was woken up by the Saline County sheriff's deputies, as per the deputies' reports cited in the lawsuit. Daniel was questioned as deputies thought he seemed to be disoriented and appeared to be hallucinating, according to the reports.

A K9 unit was brought to smell his car and emergency medical people were also called to check Daniel.

The lawsuit said that Daniel was medically cleared by EMTs and nothing came back from the K9 unit search as well as background check. But Daniel wasn't allowed to get back into his car and the deputies took his car keys.

The lawsuit and the Barajas sisters said his wallet, phone and a metal cash box that he kept in his car also went missing the day he was fatally struck.

As per the lawsuit, the deputies "used excessive force" on him. This left "him physically injured, dazed and/or confused," eventually causing him to "become disoriented and stagger onto I-30" highway.

The Arkansas Department of Public Safety had said Daniel walked into the highway and was struck by a semi-truck and two cars at around 6:00 a.m. He was declared dead on the scene by a Saline County Coroner.

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