Police say they saw Harold Easter ingest the cocaine as they stood outside his SUV on January 23. Easter, 41, had just been pulled over in Charlotte, N.C. after officers saw what appeared to be a drug deal.
“Don’t eat it! He’s eating it,” one Charlotte-Mecklenberg cops says as he reaches inside the car window and tugs on Easter’s red hooded sweatshirt. “Hands up.”
Officers took Easter into custody but didn’t get him any medical assistance. Instead, according to newly-released body camera and surveillance footage from the CMPD, Easter was tossed into an interrogation room for about 45 minutes, during which he was left alone for long stretches of time.
As CNN reports, Easter yelled for help repeatedly, and began convulsing on the table, and later on the floor of the room. While he was left unattended for a full 37 minutes, Easter had a seizure that caused him to collapse on the floor. He was seizing for seven minutes before officers finally got to him.
He died three days later.
CMPD Police Chief Johnny Jennings announced Thursday that the officers involved in Easter’s arrest have all resigned, citing violations of CMPD protocol at the time, which required officers to check in on suspects every 15 minutes. In February, that policy changed, now requiring police to “maintain continuous observation” of the people they detain.
Jennings also faulted the officers for knowing Easter had ingested a large amount of cocaine, but not immediately calling a medic.
“I don’t believe these officers had malicious intent. But they did make a bad decision, and they didn’t follow policy,” Jennings said on Thursday. “So those bad decisions have consequences. Especially when those decisions have contributed to the loss of a life, a life that we had the responsibility to protect.”
WBTV showed portions of the video, noting that it is “heart-wrenching” and difficult to watch.
Throughout his time alone in the interview room, Easter talked to himself.
“I said I had to pee. I needed some water,” Easter said about five minutes after entering the room. “I need some water.”
“I’m getting dehydrated,” Easter said a few minutes later, still alone, “So if I die in here, everybody know what I (inaudible).”
“But y’all gonna let me die in here,” Easter said shortly after.
While the five officers are off the CMPD force, they will not be facing criminal charges. In a letter written in September to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Mecklenberg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather said his office could not have proved that Easter would have survived had he gotten adequate, immediate medical care.
Easter was a father of four. An attorney for his family says his family watched the footage of him screaming for help and convulsing in pain as he waited in the interrogation room.
“He’s unbelievable...He took his kids to daycare and preschool and school every day, oftentimes staying the day with them and helping out at the school,” attorney Alex Heroy told CNN. “Family meant everything.”
“It’s been extremely heartbreaking to me to see the impact this has had on the Easter family,” Chief Jennings said, according to WBTV. “They’re good people. Something they should not have had to endure and live through. I do pray they find comfort in knowing that the police department did what we had to do to hold these officers accountable.”
Witnessing what happened to Easter eight months ago was harrowing for his mother in particular, said Heroy.
“She cried out the whole time for her son.”