$10M settlement approved in death of Black man in South Carolina jail

$10M settlement approved in death of Black man in South Carolina jail
© Greg Nash

A South Carolina county on Tuesday agreed to pay $10 million to the family of a Black man who died in January after sheriff’s deputies tased and pepper sprayed him in a jail cell.

The Charleston County Council unanimously agreed to the settlement that will be given to the family of Jamal Sutherland, according to The Washington Post.

Sutherland, 31, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Authorities arrested Sutherland the day before he died after a fight broke out at the psychiatric facility where he was receiving treatment.

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In video footage released this month, officers could be seen shouting at Sutherland to get on his stomach. They then handcuffed his hands behind his back, and one officer placed a knee on Sutherland. According to the footage, Sutherland could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe.”

He was later pronounced dead after an hour of resuscitation efforts.

During the interaction, Sutherland was also pepper sprayed twice and one of the officers later said he had tased Sutherland six to eight times, the Post notes.

The officers were attempting to transport Sutherland to court for his bond hearing.

The settlement was announced on the anniversary of the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died after former officer Derek Chauvin restrained him and placed a knee on his neck for several minutes until he became unresponsive. 

Chauvin was arrested and charged with murder in the death of George Floyd. He was convicted earlier this year of second-degree murder, among other charges. 

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“This should never happen to anyone ever again,” Councilman Teddie E. Pryor Sr. said, according to the Post. “Ever.”

The two deputies who were involved in the incident — Sgt. Lindsay Fickett and Detention Deputy Brian Houle — were fired this month.

“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,” Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano said in a statement at the time.

A local prosecutor is expected to decide in June whether Fickett and Houle will face charges for Sutherland’s death, according to the Post.