Five North Carolina police officers resign after Black man’s overdose death in custody

Josh Marcus
·2 min read
Five police North Carolina police officers resigned after being accused of failing to seek speedy medical attention for Harold Easter, a Black man who ingested large amounts of drugs before being taken into custody in a drug investigation. (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department)
Five police North Carolina police officers resigned after being accused of failing to seek speedy medical attention for Harold Easter, a Black man who ingested large amounts of drugs before being taken into custody in a drug investigation. (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department)

Five officers from the Charlotte Mecklenburg police department resigned under accusations they failed to quickly seek medical attention for a Black man who died after ingesting large amounts of crack cocaine while he was being arrested.

“If they had followed policy, we would have at the minimum given Harold Easter a chance,” said Police Chief Johnny Jennings on Thursday, who recommended their dismissal. "He was clearly in need of medical attention.”

Harold Easter, 41, was arrested Jan 23 during a drug investigation, and officers knew he’d ingested a large amount of crack cocaine during the low-speed car chase that led to his arrest.

Department policy is to seek medical attention for anyone suspected of ingesting drugs before taking them to jail, The Charlotte Observer reported. The police officials, four officers and one sergeant, placed Easter in a police interview room without being checked by a medic and left him unattended for more than 40 minutes. Department policy also stipulated at the time that officers needed to visually check suspects every 15 minutes.

“You think I’m gonna die, but I’m not,” Mr. Easter says in video the department released of the arrest and detention, before he collapses on the floor and lies there for nearly eight minutes before an officer comes in. He was later taken to a hospital and died three days later.

The officers who resigned—Brentley Vinson, Michael Benfield, Michael Joseph, Shon Sheffield, and their sergeant Nicolas Vincent—have been on administrative leave since January, and will continue to collect their pensions following their resignation.

District Attorney Spencer Merriweather III said in September he’d be unable to file involuntary manslaughter charges because it wasn’t clearly provable Mr. Easter would’ve lived even if he had received a timely medical check.

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