COCONUT CREEK (CBSMiami) — John Arendale and Bonnie Eshleman were sound asleep when the sound of a commotion outside their front door, followed by two loud, firecracker sounding pops, roused them from their bed to see what was happening.
Eshleman looked out her kitchen window and saw as many as five Coconut Creek police officers standing around a man on the ground. The firecracker sound she heard was the shot discharged from the Tasers fired by two of the officers into the man, who appeared to be writhing in pain.
“He was yelling, `Baby, baby, baby. They’re going to kill me,” she recalled to CBS4’s Jim DeFede.
From another window in their condo, Arendale watched the officers, as well. He said as they attempted to handcuff the man, one of the officers yelled at him, “Don’t move or I’ll break your [expletive] arm.”
Arendale said as they lifted the man up, he tried to run, but only got a few steps before he was hit with two more rounds from the Tasers. The man collapsed. Arendale said the man complained, “I can’t breathe.”
A few minutes later the man appeared dead.
“When he stopped moving that’s when they realized he wasn’t breathing,” Arendale said.
Eshleman and Arendale were witnessing were the final moments of 39-year-old Calvon Reid’s life. Reid’s death following an encounter with the Coconut Creek police sparked controversy this week when police were accused of trying to cover up what happened by claiming all details surrounding the incident were “confidential” and the public did not have the right to even the most basic information. At one point the department refused to acknowledge the death by citing federal privacy statutes on healthcare records.
Arendale and Eshleman, who both work for the Broward County school system, offer the first independent, eyewitness accounts of what happened during the early morning hours of Sunday, February 22. Their accounts were first published by the news website, BrowardBulldog.org.
Arendale and Eshleman said they are still not certain what prompted the encounter between Reid and police. One of their neighbors inside the Wynmoor Village complex told them that Reid had approached one of the residents in the parking lot of the gated community asking the man to take him to the hospital. Reid had been injured, but it’s not certain how he was hurt. The condo resident called 911 and asked that paramedics come and check on Reid. But when the paramedics arrived, Reid reportedly became belligerent with them. The police were summoned and as many as five officers confronted Reid.
It was sometime during that confrontation, in front of Eshleman and Arendale’s condominium, that the couple was awakened.
Eshleman said as they watched the affair play out, one of the officers tried to speak to Reid in a calm voice, asking him for his name and identification. He also wanted to know how he had gotten into the complex and if he was visiting anyone there.
It appeared Reid, however, just wanted to be left alone. A check of criminal records reveals that Reid has a lengthy criminal record for drug possession.
The encounter escalated and Reid was Tasered by at least three of the officers, the couple said.
Eshleman also said she recalled that while Reid was on the ground, one of the officers struck him in the head with what appeared to be a metal baton.
After being Tasered and struck, Reid eventually did collapse. He was handcuffed and shackled but then complained he couldn’t breathe. When the officers finally rolled him over onto his back it appeared he was dead.
Paramedics, who were already on the scene, worked on Reid and took him away in an ambulance. But the couple said it appeared to them Reid was already dead.
Late Wednesday night, one of the residents in the condo complex placed a small bouquet of flowers on the spot where Reid appeared to have died.