The death of a Black man who died in Kentucky police custody last weekend was “preventable,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said pointing to video footage from the arrest as apparent proof.
Clarence Wilkerson died on Saturday while in the custody of the Ashland Police Department, according to the Daily Independent, a local media outlet. Officers detained the 34-year-old following an apparent pursuit over the suspicion Wilkerson had “active warrants.”
KSP Post 14 Trooper Shane Goodall said Wilkerson started to complain about an unspecified medical issue once he was placed in handcuffs.
“He later succumbed to his ailments,” Goodall said.
But a video recorded by a bystander and posted to YouTube suggests the officers involved with Wilkerson’s arrest failed to render medical aid and all but ignored pleas for help, Crump said.
The person who filmed the video can be heard telling officers to help Wilkerson because he looked unwell and suggested the way he was handcuffed might be restricting his breathing. Officers were shown on video not responding to Wilkerson’s pleas for help or the bystander imploring them to render aid.
The below video contains graphic language and should be viewed with discretion.
Crump, who announced on Tuesday that he had been retained to represent Wilkerson’s family, said officers didn’t do enough to help Wilkerson and is calling for cooperation and transparency from the Ashland Police Department as Kentucky State Police conduct its own investigation.
“It is heartbreaking that Clarence’s children and loved ones have to grieve his preventable loss all because officers did not take his clearly declining condition seriously. In the upsetting video, we hear a bystander saying over and over that he needs help, while officers fail to provide aid for several critical minutes,” Crump said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “We demand that the Ashland Police Department release all footage they have from this incident and conduct a full investigation so the family and community can see the full picture of how this man lost his life.”
Results from a preliminary autopsy showed Wilkerson’s death “could possibly be related to preexisting medical conditions,” the Daily Independent reported.
Wilkerson’s mother said her son “died like a dog in the street” and had an unspecified heart ailment.
She said Ashland cops weren’t being forthcoming about what happened.
“They lied to us,” Sherri Ford said. “I saw they did not render help to my son; they’re standing there grinning and you got people across the street telling them he’s turning white. It was a sad thing, they did him like that. They tried to drag him to the car like he was walking. He didn’t have to go like that.”
Bethany Bowman, the woman who filmed the arrest, said she and Wilkerson lived near each other and that he’s been harassed by Ashland police officers before. She said Wilkerson had stopped by her trailer minutes before he was detained by the police and began fleeing.
From the time Wilkerson ran until when he returned to the police cruiser, Bowman estimated five minutes elapsed. She said by the time officers returned with Wilkerson to the trailer, he needed to sit down.
“They already knew he was in distress by then,” she said.
That’s when Bowman started recording the video of the arrest at 12:02 p.m. The video depicts officers standing around Wilkerson as he appears to pass out. Around three minutes into the video, they load him into the cruiser and at about the five-minute mark they go back to their respective squad cars. At the 5:40 mark, the cruiser containing Wilkerson is seen driving off, with no lights on.
A GoFundMe account was launched on Monday to help pay for Wilkerson’s funeral and lawyer fees. As of Tuesday, nearly $2,000 of its $10,000 goal had been raised.
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