Jamal Sutherland’s mother after release of video: ‘I don’t want any violence in my city’
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The mother of a 31-year-old man who died in January while in custody at the Charleston County jail urged people against acting out in violence after the release of footage showing his final moments.
Jamal Sutherland died at the jail on Jan. 5 while officers were trying to remove him from his jail cell so he could attend a bond hearing that morning, investigators say.
“I don’t want any violence in my city,” Amy Sutherland said. “I want us to view this tape and I want us to learn what we don’t want to have happen again. I ask no violence,” she said. “We have black men being killed every day.”
Attorney Mark Peper, who represents the family, said Jamal Sutherland was “someone you may have heard about, but someone you may not know about.”
Peper referred to the last words recorded in the video as detention deputies attempted to forcibly remove him from his cell on the morning of Jan. 5: “What is the meaning of this?”
“We all have the community’s word that we will answer this question,” he said.
Amy Sutherland said the family was at a point where their hears were content that her son was in Heaven.
“But what I want to say is that because of some things that are being put out, I feel like Jamal died yesterday,” she said.
Sutherland said her son was “an example of what we should want all young men to be, black, white, purple, green.” She urged people who did not know him not to speak of him.
She said he was a man of God and never left her side when she had to undergo 16 surgeries.
“Even when he was going to the mental hospital, he wanted to make sure that his mom was all right,” she said. “And if you don’t know, please don’t speak of him because he was a great man.”
Of the reaction she said she has seen to the videos, she said her son’s body is “not an invitation for a circus.”
“Remember he is a human being, not an animal. He was treated like one, but that’s not who Jamal was,” she said.
Sutherland had been admitted at the jail the night before after North Charleston Police responded to the Palmetto Behavioral Center where staff called 911 to report a fight.
But Peper said the fight that broke out was between two patients, neither of whom was Sutherland.
When North Charleston Police responded to the scene, Peper said Sutherland, who had attempted to intervene and help, but became agitated and was alleged to have committed an assault during the incident.
He was arrested by North Charleston Police on a charge of third-degree assault and battery.
“He is clearly, clearly experiencing mental health issues that cannot be adequately addressed at a detention center,” Peper said. “That’s why the law prevents it. That’s why the law says, ‘No person who is not mentally sound, shall be confined to the custody of a detention center, or state prison.’”
Peper said he is referred to in the video at the jail as a “10-86,” a code designating a mental patient. He also said Sutherland said he was mentally ill and asked for his medicine.
“He did everything right,” Peper said. “What are we doing wrong?”
“It was very disturbing to see how they treated him. The use of force was just completely unnecessary,” Sutherland’s father, James, said. “He was already afraid and confused about the situation, and there was nobody in there to talk to him. With any compassion, to try to reason with him and to let him know what was going on. If they had brought in somebody that, maybe, was neutral. That was not an officer, maybe a mental health person, could have been a nurse, somebody that was less threatening. They probably could have de-escalated that situation. But that didn’t happen.”
Approximately 10 hours after North Charleston Police transported him to the jail and last saw him being escorted into the jail by a jail nurse, he died in custody.
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Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano released the footage late Thursday night, saying she had deferred to the family’s wishes and waited to make the video public only when they were ready for it to be released.
“We appreciate the sheriff’s consideration of our wishes related to the jail video footage of our son and we would like her to release it to the public at this time,” the family said in a statement released Thursday.
But at Friday morning’s news conference, Sutherland’s mother disputed the claim the family did not want the video released.
“We waited patiently. We waited for the tape to be released. People are saying we didn’t want to speak. I wanted to speak the day he died,” she said. “I didn’t ask her to hold no tape. She could have released it a long time ago. That’s not anything on us.”
Peper said the Sutherland family only saw the video on May 5 and that, he said, was out of courtesy to the family by Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson.
“She didn’t have to do it,” he said. “She allowed us to see it.”
Prior to that, he said, they did not want the video out because they had not yet seen it themselves.
Two Charleston County detention deputies who were involved in the attempt to remove Sutherland from his cell that morning were placed on administrative leave and have since been reassigned to administrative duties while the investigation into the incident continues.
Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has not ruled out the possibility of criminal charges in Sutherland’s death, but says she is waiting for additional information and previously said she hoped to be able to make a decision on charges by the end of June.
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