By Gregory Lemos
Sutherland died while in custody on January 5, 2021, at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston, South Carolina. Footage released in May by the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office shows deputies pepper spraying and using stun guns Sutherland, 31, multiple times after he appeared to resist leaving his cell for a bail hearing. After the footage was released, the Charleston County sheriff announced the two deputies involved in Sutherland’s death were fired.
In June, the Charleston County coroner amended Sutherland’s manner of death from “undetermined” to “homicide.”
“We all know what the truth is that they unjustly killed this young black man who was having a mental health crisis,” Ben Crump, the family’s attorney, said during a press conference Tuesday in Charleston. “It wasn’t like this was a hardened criminal. This was a child who needed a helping hand but yet he got tasers, and pepper spray, and knees in the back, and a spit mask when he could not breathe.”
The attorney later added he believed the detention officers to be “reckless.”
In July, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced no charges would be filed against the two former Charleston County detention officers who used stun guns and pepper-sprayed Sutherland before his death, saying at the time, “Ethically, I can’t bring a case forward that I know I can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and I cannot prove criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt in this case.”
“My anxiety is so bad right now, I’m not sleeping,” Sutherland’s mother, Amy Sutherland, said in Tuesday’s press conference. “Haven’t slept that well since the death of my child.”
“Scarlett Wilson could have done so much more,” she added.
Crump said he hopes a charge of Involuntary Manslaughter will be brought against the officers and vowed to continue calling for action.
Sutherland’s family submitted a letter to South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson on September 7 requesting the state appoint a special prosecutor to look into the case, the National Action Network’s Vice President of Religious Affairs and External Relations, Reverend Nelson B. Rivers, III said during the press conference.
The family requested an investigation by the US Department of Justice as well, Rivers said, adding they have not received a reply to either letter. CNN has reached out to the Justice Department.
The Charleston County Council unanimously approved a $10 million settlement in May, but Crump said the settlement is not enough “full justice.”
“Jamal is more deserving of just a few civil coins thrown on the ground,” the attorney said.
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