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Protest Held Against Sheriff's Office In Charleston In Death Of Mentally Ill Man

Source: Sean Rayford / Getty

The family of a South Carolina man who died while in custody is pushing for the officers involved in his death to be arrested and charged following a multi-million dollar settlement awarded to his loved ones this week.

Sutherland’s death was brought to national attention after authorities released surveillance video documenting his last moments on January 5 at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston. Sutherland, 31, lived with mental illness.

On Tuesday city council members in Charleston, South Carolina, unanimously approved a $10M settlement for Sutherland’s in-custody death which took place over 140 days ago.

“Justice for Jamal will come in many forms. We are pleased to have negotiated a settlement with the government entities that provides the type of civil justice he deserves, but our work is not yet done,” a family statement obtained by The State reads. The family goes on to say that individuals living with mental illness should be treated with dignity and asked for the community’s prayers.

Sutherland’s family were joined by supporters on Wednesday who marched in the streets of downtown Charleston, organized by the social justice organization, Racial Justice Network. Demonstrators assembled in front of the office of 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson to again call for criminal charges. Wilson has vowed to view the case and announced she will make a determination next month.

“We should not be wondering what we are going to charge them with, but when we’re going to charge them. They should have been charged the day he died,” said Sutherland’s mom Amy.

Sutherland suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and was transferred to the Al Cannon Detention Center after allegedly engaging in a physical alteration at the Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health Center, a mental health facility. Graphic footage from video released on May 12 shows that Sutherland was subjugated to pepper spray and repeatedly tased while detention center deputies forcefully pushed him onto his stomach. Officers claim Sutherland refused to leave his cell for a bail hearing appearance.

At one point Sutherland yells “I can’t breathe,” as the deputies position on top of him with their knees in his back.

Two involved deputies, Sgt. Lindsay Fickett and Detention Deputy Brian Houle were fired on May 17 after Sutherland’s family and grassroots activists staged demonstrations calling for  accountability.

The case is being investigated by the Charleston County Sherriff’s Office along with the State Law Enforcement Division.


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