National News Desk

2 detention deputies terminated after death of Black inmate Jamal Sutherland in Charleston jail

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Charleston County Sheriff’s Office

(NEW YORK) — Two detention center deputies were fired Monday as investigators probe the January death of a Black inmate who had mental health issues.

Body camera footage of the Jan. 5 incident at the Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston, South Carolina, shows that deputies use a stun gun on Jamal Sutherland and kneeled on his back before he stopped moving. An hour later, the 31-year-old who his family said suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, was pronounced dead.

Charleston County Sherriff Kristen Graziano announced that as part of the internal investigation, Detention Sergeant Lindsay Fickett and Detention Deputy Brian Houle were fired.

“I must weigh the interest of public safety for the community against any incident that creates even the perception of an impairment to the operation of the Detention Center for the safety of all residents, staff and our community,” she said in a statement.

Sutherland was booked on Jan. 4 and charged with third-degree assault and battery in connection with an alleged fight that broke out at Palmetto Behavioral Health, a mental health and substance abuse center.

Amy Sutherland, Jamal Sutherland’s mother, dropped him off at the center on New Year’s Eve, according to family attorney Mark Peper. Amy Sutherland said at a news conference last week that the family found out about his death four hours after it took place and they were never informed that he was transferred to jail.

“We got no information from anybody,” she said.

Graziano said a mental health professional is assigned to the Al Cannon Detention Center, but she was not sure whether that person was on duty on Jan. 5.

In the body camera video, which was released with permission of the Sutherland family, the deputies are seen taking the inmate out of his cell for a bond court appearance. Sutherland refuses the deputies’ orders to come to the door and be handcuffed, and after a few attempts, the deputies use pepper spray on him.

The deputies then proceed to put him in handcuffs and deploy stun guns, the footage shows.

Sutherland can be heard saying, “I’m not resisting, officer,” in the video. One deputy is seen in the video putting their leg on the inmate’s back for more than two minutes as he said, “I can’t breathe.”

Officials are seen in the footage trying to perform CPR on Sutherland after he went limp.

One deputy is later seen in the video saying, “He got tased probably about six to eight times, at least.”

The Sutherland family called for the deputies’ firings last week.

Graziano said she is “still horrified” from the body camera videos, but promised there will be a full investigation and changes to the department and its handling of mental health cases.

“In my career as a law enforcement professional, I have seen my fellow officers take on mental health responsibilities that they are not equipped to handle. This must be changed, and I am committed to implementing that change,” she said in a statement.

ABC News’ Josh Margolin contributed to this report.

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