Cities across the country are finding out the hard way that if nothing is done about police violence committed against its Black citizens, the streets will continue to see protests and civil unrest, and the taxpayers will continue to have their pockets burdened by lawsuit settlements to police brutality victims or their families.
Earlier this month, The Root reported that the family of 31-year-old Jamal Sutherland—who died on Jan. 5 in a Charleston, S.C., jail after being taken there from a mental health facility where he was allegedly involved in a fight that broke out—demanded the release of surveillance and bodycam footage from the in-custody incident that ended in Sutherland’s death. On Tuesday, the Charleston County Council unanimously approved a $10 million settlement to be received by Sutherland’s family.
The settlement follows Sutherland dying while in custody on January 5, 2021, at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston. Footage released May 12 by the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office shows deputies pepper spraying and tasing Sutherland, 31, multiple times after he appeared to resist leaving his cell for a bail hearing.
“What is the meaning of this?” Sutherland can be heard saying on video as deputies enter his cell and one tells him not to resist. After struggling with both deputies, a medic was seen asking to check Sutherland’s vitals.
“He got tased about probably six to eight times, at least,” one deputy tells the medic.
The Sheriff’s Office identified the two deputies involved in the incident as Sgt. Lindsay Fickett and Detention Deputy Brian Houle. Both deputies were fired May 17.
As we previously reported, Sutherland suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. His story is one of many that prove that law enforcement officers often lack the training to deal with the mentally ill, and when it comes to Black people who suffer from mental illness especially, they often default to using the same brutal tactics they use on any civilian who dares to resist their authority.
“We know that no amount of money will bring their loved one back, but I think this starts the healing process,” Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said during the meeting to approve the settlement, USA Today reports. “This should never happen to anyone ever again. Ever.”
According to CNN, Charleston County Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said her office is reviewing the case and that “before the end of June,” she will have decided if anyone will be charged criminally for Sutherland’s death.