Videos released Wednesday show an incident at a North Carolina jail that lead to the death of a Black man who was restrained while having a medical emergency last year.
Several news organizations, including The News & Observer and The New York Times, petitioned a judge to publicly release the videos that show officers "hog-tying" John Neville, 56, who died of a brain injury in December three days after police arrested him.
One of the videos runs nearly 20 minutes and is from the body camera of one of the five detention officers involved, who were all fired last month. Another is almost 26 minutes. Over the course of 45 minutes of being held in an observation cell, Neville would "sustain injuries that would eventually cause him to lose his life," Forsyth County district attorney, Jim O’Neill said last month. Both were reviewed by USA TODAY.
Neville was being held in the Forsyth County Jail after police arrested him on an assault warrant. While there, he suffered an "unknown medical condition" in his sleep, O'Neill said. Neville fell from the top bunk onto the concrete floor of his cell where detention officers and a nurse found him "disoriented and confused."
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In the first video, Neville is seen on the ground of his cell surrounded by officers and a nurse, who tells him it appears he had a seizure. As he starts to move and ask for help, officers hold down his arms and legs, tell him he's OK and repeatedly say "don't fight."
At some point, a white mesh hood is placed over Neville’s head. He is handcuffed, strapped into a chair and taken to another cell. Once inside the cell, the second video shows Neville being held face down by several officers as they struggle to remove his handcuffs.
An officer says the key snapped off inside the handcuffs and tosses something toward the camera. Neville repeatedly pleads for help saying “I can’t breathe.”
“You’re breathing, because you’re talking, and you’re yelling and you’re moving,” the deputy replies as Neville insists he can't breathe. “You need to stop. You need to relax. Quit resisting us."
Neville told jailers more than 20 times that he could not breathe while he was restrained with his arms behind his back and his legs folded in a “hog-tie” position.
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As Neville goes quiet, the officers call for bolt cutters to remove the handcuffs. They don't work.
“He’s not looking fine,” one says.
Officers check in with each other, ask if they need a break from restraining Neville and check that their cameras are working. They joke about the handcuffs. Finally, the cuffs are removed with bolt cutters and an officer asks if Neville is all right.
The nurse returns, peering through a window in the cell door and saying she can't tell if he's breathing. Officers come back into the room, the nurse examines Neville and she says, “I can’t hear a heart rate.” She performs CPR on Neville and the video ends.
Neville died two days later at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. The autopsy said his brain injury occurred because his heart stopped beating, which deprived his brain of oxygen. The report also said he asphyxiated while being restrained.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office did not publicly acknowledge Neville’s death for more than seven months. Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough previously said he withheld word of Neville’s death at the request of the family and their attorneys.
Five detention officers and a nurse were charged last month with involuntary manslaughter: Sarah E. Poole, Antonio M. Woodley and Christopher Stamper; Corp. Edward J. Roussel and Sgt. Lavette M. Williams; and nurse Michelle Heughins.
The charges came as protests against racial injustice and police brutality continued around the country in the wake of George Floyd's death. Floyd – like Neville, Eric Garner and dozens of people who have died while being restrained by police – repeatedly said "I can't breathe" as a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Kimbrough apologized to the family and said he was saddened by the videos at a news conference Tuesday.
“I apologize again for what took place on that day, apologize to you and your family," Kimbrough told Neville’s son Sean and his family's lawyer, Michael Grace. “Your father has changed the way health care will be dispensed at the Forsyth County Detention Center as well as how it will be dispensed throughout this region."
Kimbrough said the sheriff’s office has undergone administrative changes, including training involving medical providers, as a result of Neville's death. Kimbrough also offered to name part of the county jail after Neville.
"As it relates to the video, like many of you all that have seen it I was saddened by what I saw," Kimbrough said. “And I cried as well."
After the videos were released Wednesday, Neville's family marched with supporters in Winston-Salem and their lawyer told WXII-TV he will be pursuing action against the county and the company contracted by police to provide medical care to incarcerated individuals.
"The sheriff has acknowledged that mistakes were made, and that means a lot to the family," Grace said. "It won't bring John Neville back."
Contributing: The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: John Neville videos show Black inmate fatal injury; sheriff apologizes