‘I Can’t Breath’: Police Officers Won’t Face Charges After Man Resisting Arrest Dies In Custody
Prosecutors cleared officers of misconduct in an incident where an Arkansas man who said he couldn’t breathe died in police custody, a local CBS affiliate reported.
Lionel Morris, 39, ran from officers after they received a report that he was shoplifting in Conway, Arkansas, on Feb. 4, CBS affiliate KTHV reported. Morris placed one officer in a chokehold and threatened them with a knife before he resisted arrest and was tased by at least three different officers, according to the report.
Arkansas State Police and prosecutors cleared the officers involved in the incident of wrongdoing, KTHV reported. Prosecuting attorney Carol Crews said the medical examiner determined that Morris’s death was caused by, “methamphetamine intoxication with a combination of exertion, struggle, restraint and conducted electrical weapon deployment.”
“After a thorough review, the prosecutor determined there was no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing by the Conway Police Department or the Conway police officers involved in this unfortunate incident,” Conway Police Chief William Tapley said in a video posted to YouTube.
Tapley said a toxicology report found methamphetamine, morphine, amphetamine, opiates and cannabinoids in Moris’s system at the time of the incident.
“The level of drugs Mr. Morris had in his system and the strain he exerted while struggling with police ultimately contributed to his death,” Tapley said.
Shortly after the taser was deployed Morris can be heard saying, “oh my god, oh my god, my heart, call the ambulance,” Morris then repeatedly told officers, “I can’t breathe,” video shows.
One officer responded: “If you can talk, you can breathe. Chill out.”
At least four officers can be seen restraining Morris to handcuff him, video shows. One officer knelt on Morris’s back and kept one foot on Morris’s back after he stood up.
After Morris was handcuffed, one officer asked another if they had any hand sanitizer since multiple officers came into contact with Morris’s blood, body camera footage shows. The officer then said, “yeah we finally got him in cuffs, I smashed his head on the – one of the – whatchamacallits, the aisles on the corner and he’s bleedin’ everywhere.”
The video shows numerous police cars and one ambulance outside the supermarket. (RELATED: ‘You’re Going To Kill Me Man’: Body Cam Transcripts Show George Floyd Told Officers He Couldn’t Breathe 20 Times)
An officer said, Morris is “not breathin’ right now,” and a medic can be seen performing chest compressions in the background, video shows. Morris was pronounced dead in the ambulance before he arrived at the hospital, KTHV reported.
Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry, an independent, ordered the public release of the body camera footage and had some of the involved officers placed on paid leave until the conclusion of an internal investigation, KTHV reported.
“Upon my review of the footage from the scene, I observed some things that were concerning to me,” Castleberry said in a video posted to YouTube. “While the police department has my full support, there are some behaviors that must change.”
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