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State authorities, solicitor releases investigative reports on Jamal Sutherland’s death

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 6:07 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2021 at 7:28 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Officials with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office have released investigate reports on Jamal Sutherland’s death at the Charleston County detention center.

The 31-year-old man died in custody at the Al Cannon Detention Center on Jan. 5 after becoming unresponsive while being forcibly removed from his cell so he could attend a bond hearing on a misdemeanor assault charge.

According to the SLED report, investigators questioned why tasers used on Sutherland were set at their highest level, and noted that there was a “gray area” whether Sutherland needed to appear for a bond hearing as there were mixed signals regarding that subject.

SLED officials also stated in their report that there was only one taser that was discharged among three officers who were involved in the incident.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson also released investigative material in the case which included hours of interviews with the two detention officers who removed Sutherland from his cell. In the interviews, Lindsay Fickett and Brian Houle discussed pepper spraying Sutherland. Fickett said they sprayed him while he was in the cell to make it uncomfortable enough to coerce him to come out.

Each said they tased him multiple times. The two also shared the ways they say Sutherland resisted them, like grabbing at their legs, holding a disposable spoon like a weapon and more.

Houle said after they removed Sutherland from the cell, he went limp.

“We called for medical to come up,” he said. “[The nurse] removed the taser probes out of his back.”

The officer with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division then asked Houle, “Is there any event that would’ve happened or was there anything that happened specific that would’ve to your knowledge caused him to go limp?”

Houle responded, “I thought that he figured it was over and just stopped fighting.”

Houle said they tried multiple times to de-escalate the situation. In her report, Wilson said cell extractions by definition use force and said they have the possibility of being combustible.

We reached out to Lindsay Fickett, and she told us she does not have a comment at this time, and we left a message for Brian Houle.

On Monday, Wilson said she would not file charges against two Charleston County detention deputies in Sutherland’s death.

“I understand people will have a hard time with the decision not to prosecute,” Wilson said. “Legally, though, once you see the analysis once you see all of the facts that go into these decisions, you know that there was no real choice as a prosecutor.”

Wilson said she can’t bring a case she knows she can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

Jamal Sutherland’s mother said “Justice was denied” in Wilson’s decision not to file criminal charges and pushed state leaders to pass laws to better protect the mentally ill.

“We only know that two people got away with murder,” Amy Sutherland said during a press conference on Monday afternoon. “You tortured my child.”

The FBI has a related pending investigation into Jamal Sutherland’s death at the Charleston County jail, Special Agent Don Wood confirmed Monday.

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