S.C. deputies who tasered Black man before his death fired
“We have to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves," said Christi Wright, a licensed counselor who decided to march over Jamal Sutherland
The mother of Jamal Sutherland is speaking out after two South Carolina deputies were fired this week for their involvement in his death.
Sutherland was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia as a teenager, according to The Post and Courier. Prior to his death in January, he was at the Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health Center and was arrested for allegedly assaulting a staff member. A fight reportedly broke out between Sutherland and another patient on January 4. Both were charged with third-degree assault and battery.
Sutherland had a bond hearing set for the following day. He was declared dead the morning of his court appearance after being removed from his cell by deputies at the Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston.
Body camera video from the Jan. 5 incident was released last week by the Charleston County sheriff’s office. The footage shows Detention Sergeant Lindsay Fickett and Detention Deputy Brian Houle outside the 31-year-old’s cell. One deploys a Taser and uses it repeatedly as Sutherland screams in pain. He is heard saying “I’m not resisting, officer,” during the encounter and “I can’t breathe.”
Fickett and Houle were initially placed on administrative leave over the disturbing incident. Both were fired Monday after Sheriff Kristin Graziano caught major heat from locals and community leaders over her handling of the case. Fickett was employed by the sheriff’s office for 10 years, and Houle for almost five years, according to the report.
“Today, I made the decision to terminate the two detention deputies involved in this case,” Sheriff Graziano said in a statement Monday. “I must weigh the interest of public safety for the community against any incident that creates even the perception of an impairment to the operation of the Detention Center for the safety of all residents, staff and our Community.”
Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said Fickett and Houle may soon face charges.
“For everyone who has children of color, because the system seemed like it was going to go against us. But God is who we depended on and it was done,” said Amy Sutherland, the victim’s mother, as reported by WCSC-TV. “One day people said they were going to march, and something was done that should have been done a long time ago.”
Protesters gathered Monday in Charleston demanding justice for Sutherland.
“We have to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves,” said Christi Wright, 37, a licensed counselor and a certified addictions counselor who watched the jail footage and decided to march. “It’s really important for us to change our policies so that we can make sure people who are relying on us to be protected in situations where they can’t protect themselves are protected.”
The autopsy report from the county coroner’s office said Sutherland’s cause of death as “excited state with adverse pharmacotherapeutic effect during subdual process,” NBC affiliate WCBD of Charleston reported.
“I’m not pleased with what I saw and I’m going to go a step further,” North Charleston City Councilman Jerome Heyward said Friday before the officers were terminated, noting he planned to ask Graziano for her resignation. “I don’t have no faith in the sheriff.”
Sutherland’s mother said of the video showing her son’s death, “I want us to view this tape and I want us to learn what we don’t want happening here.”
View the tape below which contains graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised.
Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!