Activists Support Family of Jamal Sutherland in Pursuit of Justice
In SummaryOver the summer, a county coroner changed the cause of death for Jamal Sutherland from undetermined to homicide.
WARNING – This story contains details some may find distressing.
It’s been more than one year since Jamal Sutherland died in state custody, and civil rights leaders and families impacted by racial violence are calling for justice.
Sutherland, a Black man who struggled with mental health issues, was in custody at the Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston, South Carolina. He was scheduled to attend a bail hearing for a misdemeanor assault charge related to an incident at a mental health facility.
Video from Jan. 5, 2021 shows sheriff’s deputies from Charleston County pepper spraying and tasing Sutherland after he did not respond to orders, BNC previously reported. In the video, Sutherland can be heard screaming in pain and yelling, “I’m not resisting, officer” and “I can’t breathe.” He was tased six to eight times and the deputies involved in the incident, Sergeant Lindsay Fickett and Detention Deputy Brian Houle, were fired.
On Thursday, Sutherland’s family was joined by civil rights attorney Ben Crump and the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Daunte Wright to call for justice ahead of Sutherland’s birthday on Jan. 14.
Crump’s practice said Sutherland’s death “raises questions about how people with a mental illness receive treatment within the criminal justice system and what alternative strategies could have saved Sutherland’s life.”
Sutherland’s family is also calling for the officers involved in his death to be charged. In June 2021, the Charleston County coroner changed his cause of death from undetermined to homicide, CNN reported.
Attorneys are calling for Solicitor Scarlett A. Wilson to review the case and charge the officers involved in Sutherland’s death, with plans to take the case to the state’s U.S. attorney. Crump also indicated that they plan to pursue the case both criminally and civilly.
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