FBI Investigating Death of Va. Man Who Died While Handcuffed in Police Custody

Linwood Lambert Jr. wasn’t under arrest May 4, 2013, when police handcuffed him to take him to a hospital. Less than three hours later, he was dead. 

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Hosptial video captures two officers using a Taser on Linwood Lambert Jr.

MSNBC screenshot

On May 4, 2013, South Boston, Va., police were called to a hotel where a man was reportedly causing a disturbance. They found Linwood Lambert Jr., 46, and believed him to be suffering from hallucinations.

They cuffed him, put him in a police car and drove him to the Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital for medical attention. Once at the hospital, Lambert bolted from the police car toward the hospital entrance.

Police officers used a Taser on Lambert repeatedly and then placed him under arrest, taking him from the hospital back to the police car, where he had a Taser used on him several more times. Lambert became unresponsive, but instead of taking him inside the hospital, police drove him to jail and called an ambulance. The ambulance arrived and took Lambert back to the same hospital that police had taken him some two hours before. He was pronounced dead.

On Thursday the FBI announced that it was opening a civil rights investigation into Lambert’s death amid heavy criticism that the state investigation has taken too long, the Associated Press reports.

“A black man was killed while in custody of South Boston police,” Jack Gravely, executive director of the NAACP in Virginia, told AP. “Why did he die? What did he die of, and why has it taken the commonwealth’s attorney more than two years to issue a report on the death of Linwood Lambert Jr.?”

Prosecutor Tracy Quackenbush Martin, who has yet to decide if cops should be charged in Linwood’s death, told AP in an email that she is working “as expeditiously as possible.”

“Considering all the relevant information I can reasonably receive, and having the patience and fortitude to wait for it—even in the face of controversy—is part of fulfilling the demands of justice,” Martin told AP.

According to an autopsy report viewed by AP, the official cause of Lambert’s death is listed as “acute cocaine intoxication.” Attorneys representing Lambert’s sister, Gwendolyn Smalls, in a $25 million lawsuit claiming that the officers used excessive force against her brother, have argued that video of the incident casts doubt on the cause of death. 

Joe Messa, an attorney for Smalls, called the FBI’s involvement in the case a “positive development” and added, “The goal here is justice for the Lambert family.”

Read more at the Associated Press.