Jamal Sutherland died earlier this year in a South Carolina jail cell after officers pepper sprayed and tased him. While the cause of death was initially ruled as undetermined, a coroner has amended Sutherland’s death certificate to indicate that his death was a homicide.
According to NBC News, Coroner Bobbi Jo O’Neal made the amendment after additional testing determined that Sutherland’s death was “best deemed to be homicide.” The 31-year-old Sutherland died on Jan. 5 after being transferred from a psychiatric facility where he was receiving treatment to a jail in Charleston, S.C., after being involved in a fight.
The officers were attempting to remove Sutherland from his cell for a bond hearing. Body camera footage of the incident shows two sheriff’s deputies outside the cell as one of the deputies fires his taser at Sutherland multiple times, and he could be heard writhing in pain on the ground. He was pronounced dead over an hour later after multiple attempts to resuscitate him. The pathologist who conducted the initial autopsy listed the cause of death “as a result of excited state with adverse pharmacotherapeutic effect during subdual process.”
Now, it should be noted that while the coroner has listed his death a homicide, that doesn’t necessarily determine whether or not his death was unlawful. O’Neal’s office has said that they will have a press conference on Wednesday to further discuss what led to the change.
“The family reached this same conclusion immediately upon seeing the video of his death, thus they are pleased with the amended finding and remain steadfast in their pursuit of justice for Jamal,” Mark A. Peper and Gary Christmas, the attorneys for the family, told NBC News.
It breaks my heart that when people with mental health issues are struggling they’re met not with care or empathy, simply violence and abuse. I don’t get how so many people can see shit like this and think that the problem is compliance. Is this really the world you want?
A sergeant and detention deputy involved in the incident were fired last month, and the Charleston County Council voted unanimously to settle with Sutherland’s family for $10 million. So far, no criminal charges have been brought against the sheriff’s officials involved in Sutherland’s death.