Video footage has shown how deputies in South Carolina pepper-sprayed and tasered a mentally ill man to death in his cell. The video was released by the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office revealed how 31-year-old Jamal Sutherland was tortured to death at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in North Carolina on January 5, 2021.
In the body cam videos, two sheriff’s deputies are seen standing outside Sutherland’s cells in their bid to remove him for a bond hearing. Sutherland had been suffering from mental illness and was being treated at Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health Center but got involved in a fight with other inmates at the facility. The staff called the police, and he was removed from the detention center after being charged with a misdemeanor.
On the day he died, deputies stood outside his cell to take him to court for a bail hearing for the misdemeanor offense. But a deputy was heard telling his colleague in the video that Sutherland refused to come out of his cell and that his stance was aggressive. The deputy said the black man was holding a spoon and that a captain had been notified.
The officers shouted at Sutherland to lie down and to stretch out his hands to be cuffed, but when he would not yield, they deployed a pepper spray, and he coughed and covered his head with a blanket. The deputies went into the cell and subdued him and also tasered him several times while he wailed and writhed in pain on the floor, CNN reports.
Before he passed out, he asked the deputies who had stormed his cell, “What is the meaning of this?” A medic then checked him when he was put in a wheelchair and reported that there was a low pulse. EMS eventually arrived, and he was set up on an automatic chest compression machine and worked for about 35 minutes before the paramedics declared him dead.
“If they had brought in somebody that maybe was neutral,” James Sutherland, the deceased’s father said, “that was not an officer, maybe a mental health person, could have been a nurse, somebody that was less threatening, they probably could have de-escalated that situation. But that didn’t happen.”
Amy Sutherland, the deceased’s mother, tearfully said law enforcement should review the footage of her son’s death to see what they can learn.
“Mentally ill, still able to say, ‘Thank you, Jesus, take care of me,’” she said. “I want y’all to know Jamal was a great man. He had faults like everybody else, but he was a great man. I don’t want any violence in my city. I want us to view this tape and I want us to learn what we don’t want happening here.”