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Sheriff releases video involving inmate’s death at Charleston County jail

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 1:47 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano has released video involving the death of an inmate at the Charleston County jail.

The video released Thursday night shows the events on the morning of Jan. 5 at the Al Cannon Detention Center involving Jamal Sutherland and deputies with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. Sutherland died at the jail after being in jail for just about 12 hours, according to Solicitor Scarlett Wilson.

READ MORE: Sheriff’s full statement on release of video

He was being taken out of his cell to go to a bond hearing but died while being subdued, prosecutors said. Sutherland struggled with mental illness, and was brought to the jail by North Charleston police after a fight at a psychiatric facility he was committed to.

Early Friday morning, Live 5′s Raphael James showed portions of the video showing what led up to Sutherland’s death. You can watch that video below.

The release of the videos comprises of hours of footage including body camera footage from deputies involved in the incident. The footage seen above originates from one of the deputies who responded to Sutherland’s cell to transport him to a bond hearing.

That video shows deputies calling out for Sutherland as his cell door remains shut.

As deputies are opening the door they command Sutherland to get on the ground.

It appears in the video that Sutherland is not on the ground and one of the deputies fires a taser at which point the video shows him on the ground.

A still image from body camera footage showing the incident between Sutherland and deputies at...
A still image from body camera footage showing the incident between Sutherland and deputies at the Al Cannon Detention Center.(CCSO)

Deputies then can be heard telling Sutherland to slide towards the door, during which time Sutherland can be heard asking,”What is the meaning of this?”

The deputies then order Sutherland on his stomach.

One of the officers is then seen attempting to place handcuffs on him as the officer asks him to “loosen up.” At that point, the video appears to show Sutherland saying, “Officer...” but before he’s able to finish his sentence he’s tased and cries out.

A struggle then can be seen between Sutherland and the deputies with additional tases being heard as well as Sutherland crying out.

Medical staff could be seen responding to the cell at various times in different videos provided by the sheriff’s office.

A still image from footage from a body camera worn by a deputy responding to Sutherland's cell...
A still image from footage from a body camera worn by a deputy responding to Sutherland's cell as another deputy is struggling with Sutherland.(CCSO)

The following is a timeline of events gathered through the videos and reports released by law enforcement agencies.

  • On Jan. 4, 2021, operators receive a 911 call from Palmetto Behavioral Health health for a physical disturbance.
  • Officers with the North Charleston Police Department arrive and told two patients assaulted a staffer and two other patients.
  • Jamal Sutherland and another person w ere arrested for assault and battery in the third degree. Sutherland was booked into the Al Cannon Detention Center that night
  • On the morning of Jan. 5, deputies Brian Houle and Lindsay Fickett tried to get Sutherland from his cell to go to bond court. The video shows them repeatedly asking him to come over so they can handcuff him.
  • Deputy Houle is seen spraying a chemical irritant into a cell which leaves Sutherland coughing and gagging
  • The deputies fire a taser and tell Sutherland to slide over to the door. When he refuses to turn to his stomach, that’s when deputies go in, try to handcuff him, and then tase him repeatedly as Sutherland screams
  • Afterwards they handcuff him, put a spit hood on him, and drag them out. When they handcuff him to a wheelchair and take that hood off that’s when they realize he needs medical help
  • Medical workers continue to do life saving work until Sutherland is pronounced deceased
  • Later that day the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office put out a statement saying,”Shortly after 10 this morning, detention deputies reported an unresponsive inmate at the sheriff of al cannon detention center, the inmate was pronounced deceased inside the facility
  • At the time, the two deputies involved were put on administrative leave with pay

Sheriff Kristin Graziano agreed to release the video late Thursday night after the family requested it be released to the public.

“I have deferred to the family’s wishes to keep the video private until they were ready, and they have now asked me to release the jail footage of their son, Jamal Sutherland,” Graziano said in a statement late Thursday night. “I am directing the immediate release of all videos related to his death in their entirety. We agree it is clearly time for the public to view what happened.”

The Charleston County Coroner’s Office said a forensic autopsy showed the cause of death as “excited state with adverse pharmacotherapeutic effect during subdual process.”

The coroner said the manner of death is currently “undetermined” as the investigation into Sutherland’s death remains open and active.

Jamal Sutherland, 31, died Tuesday while in custody at the Al Cannon Detention Center.
Jamal Sutherland, 31, died Tuesday while in custody at the Al Cannon Detention Center.(Provided)

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said her investigation, based on a report from the State Law Enforcement Division, found that Sutherland became unresponsive and died after Charleston County deputies in the jail worked to forcibly remove him from his jail cell so that he could attend a bond hearing for a misdemeanor assault charge.

Sutherland’s death came hours after North Charleston Police transported him from Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health Center to the Al Cannon Detention Center.

Police responded to the facility after staff members called 911 on the night of Jan. 4 to report “a large-scale fight had erupted between patients and staff and that staff urgently needed help from law enforcement,” North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said.

Summey released a video Wednesday that included audio clips from the 911 call and body cam footage from North Charleston Police officers showing them taking Sutherland into custody. Body cam footage ends as Sutherland is being escorted with a nurse into the Al Cannon Detention Center.

Summey says when North Charleston officers last had Sutherland in their sight, “he was healthy” and was being accompanied by a nurse as he went into the jail.

“It brings me sorrow to know that Jamal passed away the following day on Jan. 5, but I am relieved that video and audio exists to let us see the respect and patience that North Charleston Police Officers displayed that night,” Summey said. “While Jamal’s family continues to grieve his passing, I hope our recordings of the interaction gives the family and the community confidence in the way we conducted ourselves.”

Earlier on Thursday activist groups held a press conference demanding the release of the video. The groups, who include the ACLU of South Carolina and Charleston Black Lives Matter, were calling for full transparency and accountability in Jamal Sutherland’s death at the Al Cannon Detention Center which continues to be investigated.

Also on Thursday, lawmakers said they were taking action in response to Sutherland’s death with State Representative J.A. Moore filing several bills aimed at preventing future incidents.

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