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State police probe confirms Las Cruces officer used controversial neck restraint, stun gun on suspect who died

State of New Mexico
Antonio Valenzuela is seen here in a mugshot from a prior incident.

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico — New Mexico State Police have confirmed that Las Cruces police used a controversial vascular neck restraint and a stun gun on a suspect before he died.

A state police report released this week said Officer Christopher Smelser used a vascular neck restraint on Antonio Valenzuela, who fled from a traffic stop last month.

According to authorities, the 40-year-old Valenzuela had an open bench warrant for a parole violation.

Valenzuela was described as combative, but officers were able to handcuff him. They then noticed he was unresponsive and called for emergency medical services. Valenzuela was pronounced dead at the scene.

The police use of vascular neck restraint, sometimes called a chokehold, has been the subject of protests in some communities.

Las Cruces police spokesman Dan Trujillo said two officers involved in the case remain on paid administrative leave.

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