Jermaine Williams, a 30-year-old African-American man from Bolivar County, MS, died in police custody on July 23, 2010. Little has been released about the circumstances of his death—except that the local deputy coroner is calling it a homicide by taser.
On Saturday, Bolivar County Deputy Coroner J.O. Trice said he considered the death of Williams a homicide and attributed it solely to the TASER.Trice’s superior, Bolivar County Corner Dr. Nathaniel Brown, has told the press that there was alcohol in Williams blood and cocaine in his urine.
“The cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia that was induced by the electrical tasing device (TASER),” he said on Saturday. “The young man was quite healthy for a 30-year-old fellow.
“Most of it is still pending,” he said. “We’re just waiting on the results from the toxicology but it has not changed my opinion about the cause of death. The toxicology report may take a month or so before we get all the results back.”
“The blood/cocaine level is still pending,” Brown said. “Cocaine can cause heart arrhythmia and death by itself. The cocaine coupled with an electrical shock … that combination could have caused his death.”It is notable that Tasers are quite new to the Cleveland, MS police department in Bolivar County. According to the Bolivar Commercial:
Regardless, Williams’ death could still fall under accidental or justifiable homicide, according to Brown who said that was just his opinion as he is not an attorney.
The Cleveland Police Department recently started using TASERs as a way to subdue resistive and combative individuals.The newspaper also reports that the taser used was TASER X26 Electronic Control Device (ECD), which has “a recording device built in that cannot be tampered with.” According to the 2008 Amnesty International report Less Than Lethal: The Use of Stun Weapons in U.S. Law Enforcement, the X26 is
The department underwent training as well as having to be on the receiving end of a TASER before they were allowed to use them on the street.
programmed to be activated in automatic five-second bursts, although the officer can stop the charge at any time by engaging the safety switch. The charge can also be prolonged beyond five-seconds if the trigger is held down continuously. The operator can also inflict repeated shock cycles with each pull of the trigger as long as both barbs remain attached to the subject. The only technical limit to the number or length of the electrical cycles is the life of the battery, which can be ten minutes or more.It will therefore be important to establish how many times the device was used on Mr. Williams, at what interval if more than once, and whether the electrical charge put into Mr. Williams body was prolonged beyond the 5 second default. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigations is investigating, according to the local news report.
I am talking to local sources and will be reporting more information about this case soon.
Being placed on administrative leave is protocol in this type of situation and does not denote guilt or innocence.
The Cleveland Police Department held a press conference this morning to address the countless calls and visits in reference to the incident.
Police Chief Charles “Buster” Bingham said that at 3:18 a.m. the morning of July 23, police officers responded to a call of individuals loitering in the street on the 700 block of Cross.
The officers who responded spoke to the individuals there.
During the conversations, a bag of suspected cocaine was found on top of one of the vehicles where the individuals were standing.
As is normal procedure, the officers asked for identification of everyone.
One particular individual gave the officers several false names.
Another person, later identified as Williams, came up and said he was “gonna call someone.”
He then grabbed the bag of suspected cocaine and ran. An officer pursued him and finally caught up with Williams at Lucy Seaberry Boulevard and Cross Street.
Williams would not comply and continued to resist the officer. The officer then deployed his TASER on Williams.
Even then, according to the read statement, he was still combative and actually tried to take the TASER from the officer.
A second officer then arrived and Williams received a second TASER deployment.
“He was still combative,” Bingham said.
Other officers made it to the scene at which time they had to physically pull Williams’ arms out from under him.
He was cuffed and officers noticed that he was having medical difficulties.
Emergency services were called and prior to their arrival, the officers themselves gave Williams’ medical attention.
He was taken to Bolivar Medical Center.
Bingham did not say whether or not Williams died at the scene, on the way to the hospital or at the hospital.
The chief did not say what happened to the bag of suspected cocaine, whether Williams ingested it or if it was recovered or not at the scene.
However, Bolivar County Coroner Dr. Nathaniel Brown said according to a preliminary autopsy report that Williams had cocaine in his urine and alcohol in his blood.
The cocaine/blood level is still pending the official autopsy report, which may take a month to receive.
The Cleveland Police Department then called in the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations to look into the incident which is also proper procedure.
Bingham said in cases of serious injury or death, their response will be to immediately call in an outside agency.
He also said his department has complied with all requests of the MBI and will continue to do so.
Bingham also said that while they understand the public’s interest in the case, they do not wish to release anymore information until the matter is concluded.
He added they did not want to impede the investigation.
Prior to the statement read by Bingham, members of the press were told they would not be allowed to ask questions at any time.
The press could, however, contact the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations for any future comments or information.
The MBI officer in charge of the investigation has yet to return phone calls made by The Bolivar Commercial since Friday.
While the names of the officers are known to The Bolivar Commercial, they could not be publicly verified at the press conference.
The Bolivar Commercial will continue to publish any and all new information pertaining to this case.
At 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, Police Chief Buster Bingham held a press conference to discuss the death of Jermaine Walker, 30.
Walker died on July 23 following two TASER deployments made during a call police answered on the 700 block of Cross Street.
The Bolivar Commercial will have more details on the conference and the incident in the Wednesday afternoon issue.