2793 1 month ago
2793 1 month ago
The Charleston County Sheriff's Office late on Thursday night released hours of visceral surveillance and body-worn camera video showing what led up to the death of Jamal Sutherland.
Sutherland, who suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, died at the Charleston County jail the morning of January 5, 2021, after his arrest the previous night on assault charges stemming from a fight at a mental health facility where he'd been receiving treatment.
Dozens of videos released by Sheriff Kristin Graziano Thursday night at the request of Sutherland's family show him in an agitated and delusional as deputies tried to get his cooperation so they could escort him from his cell to a court room.
Sutherland repeatedly shouts "hallelujah" from inside his cell, and refuses to comply as deputies ask him several times to come to the door of his cell so he can be placed in handcuffs and walked from the jail to the magistrate's court for a bond hearing.
Twice, jail guards sprayed pepper spray into Sutherland's cell in attempts to coerce his compliance, but he wouldn't budge, pacing around his cell and shouting incoherently.
After continuing to refuse to obey deputies' commands to come to the door, jail staff decided to remove Sutherland by force.
Deputy Brian Houle opened Sutherland's cell and fired his taser at Sutherland, striking him and sending Sutherland to the ground.
Deputy Houle and Sgt. Lindsay Fickett, who had come to assist with removing Sutherland, then ordered Sutherland to slide on his butt across the floor to the door, after Sutherland claimed he couldn't walk.
Sutherland slid to the door, and asked "What is the meaning of this?" When ordered to roll over onto his stomach so he could be handcuffed, Sutherland again refused, saying he would only roll over onto his side.
Houle and Fickett then entered the cell and began attempting to subdue and handcuff Sutherland, repeatedly ordering him to surrender his hands and "stop resisting," but Sutherland fought back.
During the melee inside his cell, Sutherland was tasered at least six times, based on the videos the sheriff's office provided, including statements by Houle himself caught on video.
In their attempts to gain control of Sutherland, Sgt. Fickett had straddled his hips and lower back, while Houle attempted to keep Sutherland held down by planting his knee across Sutherland's shoulder blades.
The two detention deputies battled with Sutherland for four minutes before they were able to drag him out of the cell in handcuffs,
Sutherland screamed throughout most of the battle, until finally the two deputies had overmatched him. The last words Sutherland clearly can be heard saying on the videos are "I can't breathe."
Soon after the deputies handcuffed him and dragged him out of the cell, Sutherland put forth one final struggle, thrashing his legs about before falling limp and going motionless.
Deputy Houle and Sgt. Fickett next attempted to lift Sutherland from the ground and place him in a wheelchair with restraints, but a nurse who'd arrived at the scene raised an alarm something was wrong after noticing Sutherland was unresponsive.
Jail guards removed Sutherland from the chair, placed him face-up on the ground, and removed his handcuffs. For the next seven minutes, a group of nurses attempted to rouse Sutherland, who was still breathing and twitching. Some in the room questioned if he was having a seizure.
The grave condition Sutherland was in became apparent shortly before 10:04 a.m. Nurses had been trying to put a neck brace on Sutherland, but quickly shifted to administering CPR after Sutherland stopped breathing and medical staff found no pulse.
For another 14 minutes, five nurses and two paramedics who'd arrived at the jail took turns giving Sutherland chest compressions. Then, paramedics placed a manual chest compression machine on Sutherland, which pumped for another 22 minutes before medical staff gave up their life-saving efforts.
The Charleston County Coroner's Office has not ruled on the manner of Sutherland's death, unwilling to point to one action or event that definitively claimed his life.
However, Coroner Bobbi Jo O'Neal on Thursday announced her ruling on the underlying cause of his death, saying it was the result of his excited state and "adverse pharmacotherapeutic effect" suffered while fighting with jail staff.