An attorney for the family of an unarmed black man, who died after being kept in a chokehold by a police officer for more than 20 minutes, says he died from the strangulation.
Jonathan Sanders, 39, died on July 8 after being strangled by white police officer Kevin Herrington in Stonewall, Mississippi.
An autopsy also confirmed Sanders was fatally strangled.
According to Sanders’ family attorneys, Chokwe Antar Lumumba and CJ Lawrence, law enforcement agencies told them that Sanders died from "manual asphyxiation," and that the death was a homicide and not an accident, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
The attorneys said one witness, said that officer Herrington said he was “going to get that nigger” seconds before confronting the victim. Several others said the officer was the aggressor.
They said another witness told Herrington he was trained in CPR and had his own mask for use on a patient but was repeatedly prevented by the officer from using it on Sanders.
“We believe there is probable cause for a prosecution,” said attorney Lawrence. “A determination should now be made by a jury at an open trial as to whether officer Herrington had any justification for choking Jonathan Sanders to death.”
The attorneys said investigators had informed them they were aware of the alleged racist remark.
Sanders, who made his living buying, selling and training horses, was riding by a gas station on a horse-drawn buggy at about 10.30 pm when he made a comment to Herrington, who had pulled over a driver. The driver had told the attorneys that he was drunk and his registration tags had expired.
The driver said when he was stopped, Sanders asked Herrington, “Why don’t you leave that man alone?” or similar, said Lumumba. “According to the driver, once the officer saw Jonathan, his attention was piqued and he said: ‘I’m going to get that nigger.’”
Clarke County District Attorney Bilbo Mitchell said the case will be presented to a grand jury. The next grand jury in the county is scheduled to begin August 31.
A grand jury in December declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who strangled unarmed African-American Eric Garner in New York last year.
A cell phone video that a bystander took of the incident sparked protests across the US over police brutality and the mistreatment of minority groups.