The words “I can’t breathe” aren’t just a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, they’re words a person actually said before they died because police officers either didn’t believe them or didn’t care.
On Aug. 29, 2019—before George Floyd, but well after Eric Garner—23-year-old Dayton, Ohio, man Darren Boykin died in police custody in Texarkana, Texas, after repeatedly telling officers he couldn’t breathe. Two years later, Boykin’s mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit accusing officers of being “deliberately indifferent” to her son’s complaints and well-being.
According to the Washington Post, the suit filed by Keisha Boykin alleges that officers Jerrika Weaver and Brent Hobbs, and their supervisor, Sgt. William Scott, “deliberately chose not to provide medical care” despite Darren warning over and over again that he was having trouble breathing and was about to pass out.
“It was clear that this wasn’t just someone who happened to die,” Boykin’s attorney, James Roberts, said in the filing. “It was someone who was complaining that they were in distress, that they needed help and they were in a situation where they couldn’t provide themselves with that care.”
Nobody was ever charged with Darren’s death because a coroner determined he died of natural causes linked to complications of sickle cell trait—but that obviously ignores the fact that his life might have been saved if the arresting officers immediately sought medical help instead of assuming he was either lying or that he’d be fine while on his ride to jail.
According to the Post, Darren was at Texarkana College when a campus police officer suspected him of theft and confronted him. Darren allegedly lead police on a foot chase for about half a mile when he was finally detained by city police, who found, based on his Ohio driver’s license, that he had a felony warrant in his home state.
“You can’t call ‘I can’t breathe’ after you ran forever and then you have felonies,” Weaver told Darren after he complained about not being able to breathe, according to the lawsuit.
“Ma’am, I’m about to pass out,” Darren told Weaver, to which she responded, “Just lean against the glass.” He also told her, ”I can’t even talk,” the lawsuit alleges.
Police video published by KTBS 3 shows that, at one point, Darren asked for help and Weaver responded, “I’m going to help you get to the jail.”
She can also be heard telling Hobbs, “He’ll be fine,” in response to Hobbs informing her of Darren’s complaints.
“Even if there was something to do with sickle cell or whatever the reason it was that he couldn’t breathe, providing him with oxygen is going to help that situation,” Roberts said, according to KTBS.
Darren was reportedly unresponsive when they arrived at the jail and that’s when Weaver began CPR.
“Now they take action,” said Scott Palmer, another attorney representing Keisha. “At that point, they’ve already driven right by the very hospital they end up taking him back to and it’s too late at this point.”
Suspected criminals are still human beings and the words “I can’t breathe” should be taken seriously by authorities no matter the circumstance. Regardless of what Darren Boykin died from, compassion, basic human decency and immediate action could have saved his life.
Watch the entire video below, but you’re going to have to watch it on youtube: