Sheriff fires two South Carolina deputies involved in black man's death

18 May 2021 - 10:40 By Reuters
Video footage showed one of the deputies placing a knee on the back of Jamal Sutherland, and Sutherland saying 'I can't breathe', according to a report. File photo.
Video footage showed one of the deputies placing a knee on the back of Jamal Sutherland, and Sutherland saying 'I can't breathe', according to a report. File photo.
Image: REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

Two sheriff’s deputies in South Carolina in the US were fired on Monday for their involvement in the death of a black man who died after he was forcibly removed from his jail cell in North Charleston in January.

“Today, I made the decision to terminate the two detention deputies involved in this case,” said Kristin Graziano, the Charleston county sheriff.

“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 centre for the safety of all residents, staff and our community.”

Footage released last week by the sheriff’s office showed the deputies pepper-spraying and using a Taser on Jamal Sutherland many times after he appeared to resist leaving his cell for a bail hearing, CNN reported.

The footage showed one of the deputies placing a knee on the back of Sutherland, and Sutherland saying “I can’t breathe”, according to the New York Times. Sutherland was declared dead soon after.

The incident drew comparisons to last year’s death of George Floyd, an African American who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes and whose death led to months of protests against racism and police brutality.

The terminated officials were Sgt Lindsay Fickett, employed since March 2011, and detention deputy Brian Houle, employed since July 2016, the Charleston county sheriff said on Monday.

Sutherland was in jail because of an incident at a behavioural health centre on January 4. He was accused of “a misdemeanour offence of simple assault on a nurse staff member”,  said Sutherland family attorney Mark Peper.

The incident that led to his death took place on the next day at the detention centre in North Charleston.


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