Charleston County officials have released disturbing surveillance footage depicting the last moments of a mentally ill man who died in police custody earlier this year.
Jamal Sutherland who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder was brought to police headquarters on Jan. 5 following a fight at the mental clinic where he’d been staying.
But when Charleston Police officers were attempting to make him leave his prison cell to attend his court hearing, Sutherland resisted.
The footage showed the deputies initially asking him to come out before one deployed a taser on the vulnerable man, who then fell to the ground.
The deputies insisted Sutherland leave the cell as he wondered how he would do if he still couldn’t walk. They replied that he can “slide” to the door.
Sutherland managed to reach the door and was placed in handcuffs. As deputies ordered him not to resist, they repeatedly stunned him and one of them knelt on his back as he screamed “I can’t breathe.”
Shortly later, Sutherland became unresponsive. He was put on a chair, then on the ground with first responders performing compressions to save him before he was declared dead.
“He was already afraid and confused about the situation and there was nobody in there to talk to him with any compassion, to try to reason with him, and to let him what was going on,” the victim’s dad said.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg called the incident “horrific” and promising to address the wrong within mental health justice issues.
“Jamal Sutherland deserved the mental health treatment that he sought. What rationale could there be for the treatment that Jamal received? My mind can’t find one.”