Protesters are calling for justice after a North Carolina man died days after being apprehended by jail guards while yelling “I can’t breathe.”
According to WFMY News2, video footage was made public that shows what occurred before John Neville’s death. More than 40 minutes of body camera footage was recorded in Forsyth County Jail back in December, and four minutes of the video was shown by WFMY. According to Associated Press, Neville was being held in the jail on a warrant accusing him of assaulting a woman.
The footage leading to his death begins in Neville’s jail cell and it shows several officers surrounding him on the floor after he fell from his top bunk bed. The detention officers tell him that he appears to have had a medical emergency. “You’re alright. You’re OK. You had a seizure,” one officer said. Over the next couple of seconds, Neville and the officers are calm and he can be heard breathing.
“You’re going to be alright buddy. Alright? You’re going to be alright. Having a little bit of a medical episode, here,” another officer explained in the video.
When a nurse tries to take Neville’s blood pressure a couple of seconds later, Neville gets restless.
“Stay right there,” an officer says.
“Let me out!” Neville replies.
“No. They’re trying to protect you from yourself. You’re having a medical emergency,” another officer says.
The video shows one of the detention officers with a knee placed on Neville’s arm, supposedly as a way to keep him restrained. As the video continues, Neville comes back into the frame and something is over his head. At this point, Neville is starting to breathe heavily. The autopsy report said officers placed a mesh spit mask on him after he attempted to bite them.
The autopsy report went on to say that officers helped Neville to his feet and placed him in a restraint chair, which is present in the body-camera footage. The officers then escort Neville to an observation cell and they place him face down on a floor mattress to take off his handcuffs. They hold his shoulders, arms and legs in the process.
At this point, Neville can’t be seen in the four-minute video WFMY released. Only five officers can be seen. This is when Neville starts to yell, “I can’t breathe multiple times.”
“Please!” Neville shouts.
“You need to relax so I can get the cuffs off,” one officer says.
“I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Neville continues.
Over the next 67 seconds of the bodycam footage, Neville yells “I can’t breathe,” ten more times while also crying for help.
Eventually, officers arrive with bolt cutters, which the autopsy report says officers used after the handcuff key broke inside the lock. The handcuffs were cut off using the bolt cutters.
By the end of the video, officers leave the cell, causing Neville to be left on the ground. A nurse said she couldn’t see him breathing, according to the autopsy report.
The footage follows below and it is graphic. Watch at your own discretion.
Neville was transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center where he died two days later. The autopsy listed brain injury after he was restrained as his cause of death. A nurse and five detention officers were charged last month with involuntary manslaughter.
According to Associated Press, more than 70 people joined a vigil for Neville in Winston-Salem on Wednesday night. Neville’s son, Tremaine Stubbs, spoke to the crowd, saying, “My daddy is gone for no reason.”
An activist in the city, Terrance Hawkins, also said, “White supremacy continues to have its way in this city, in this state, in this country and in this world. We want justice, and we want it now.”
Hawkins said he was concerned that it took the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office months to bring charges in Neville’s death and to make the jail footage public. A Black Lives Matter chapter in the city demanded for months that the video be released, however, Neville’s family opposed this move until last week. The BLM chapter eventually apologized last week in a Facebook post “for not following the initial wishes of John Neville’s family” and for “any hurt” they may have caused.