Martial arts choke holds are no joke. We've talked about that repeatedly after watching television and radio hosts asking MMA fighters to slap on the holds for a photo opportunity. The rear-naked or guillotine choke is a potentially lethal move if not treated with care. Just ask Alex Montalvo, who's in the center of a firestorm in New Jersey.
Back in July of 2010, Montalvo fought off a burglar, slapped on a submission hold and left Douglas Uhler unconscious on the street. Uhler never fully recovered and died yesterday at 19 years old.
On July 31 at 3:39 a.m. in Bridgewater, N.J., Montalvo and his wife heard their car alarm go off. The 42-year-old ran to the street, identified two suspects and chased them to the next block.
With one punch, he knocked out Brian Johnston, 18. That's when Uhler emerged:
Uhler ran out from nearby bushes and shouted: "You want a piece of me, (expletive)?!"
Uhler jumped on Montalvo, who put him in a submission hold, Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano said. The move blocked the teen's oxygen flow, causing a brain injury, Soriano said.
Uhler was taken to Somerset Medical Center and later treated at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center. He never fully recovered from the injuries:
A once-strapping high school football player, Uhler spent his days in bed or in a wheelchair. He had to be fed through a tube, according to court records. He was non-vocal and unable to walk, sit or roll. He also had poor head control. Uhler had been in and out of several hospitals, including the Children's Specialized Hospital and the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation.
Back in December, a grand jury indicted Uhler and Johnston on third-degree burglary charges. Johnson pleaded guilty and is awaiting charges. The Uhler family wants Montalvo in a courtroom next, claiming he used excessive force to subdue their son.
"New Jersey law allows you to defend your physical self as well as your property," said Jenny Carroll, an associate professor at Seton Hall Law School. "You're allowed to kill people under certain circumstances, particularly self-defense. If I jump on you, you're allowed to do what is required to make me stop hurting you. But if I pause, you can't just start kicking me in the head."
Carroll said there are no clear-cut answers.
"Here's the trick in this case — did the homeowner exceed the need to protect his property?" she said. "If the kids are still in the process of taking the homeowner's property, then he has a right to defend his property and to use force. The prosecutor must decide whether the homeowner used justifiable force, and whether it was reasonable.
"Even in the heat of passion, if you're trying to subdue someone, it isn't reasonable to kill them," Carroll said.
The Uhler family said their son had plans of attending William Patterson University, where he was looking to study sports medicine.