A Black man in the US state of South Carolina who was pepper-sprayed and tasered by police officers died of abnormal heart event, authorities have said.
Charleston County Coroner Bobbi Jo O’Neal told reporters that Jamal Sutherland’s death was changed from "undetermined" to "homicide," reports said on Thursday.
O’Neal said that the man died “as the result of a cardiac event,” which was likely a fatal dysrhythmia, also called an abnormal heart rhythm.
The incident happened earlier this year, but body camera footage of his death was released by authorities last month.
Police were trying to forcibly pull out Sutherland from his cell. Two deputies shouted at the man to get on his stomach, before he said he can’t get up, the footage showed.
Then Sutherland was tasered and pepper-sprayed several times by the officers and can be heard in the footage screaming in pain.
One of the officers placed his knee on Sutherland’s back for more than two minutes, and the Black man can be heard saying “I can’t breathe.” Sutherland was pronounced dead after an hour of this incident.
O’Neal said on Wednesday that her office was still awaiting results of further testing, but added that she doesn’t think it will change the cause of the death.
“We want to be as complete and thorough and possible,” she said. “This information is important in that we have a full picture. That we get all the circumstances. We owe that to Jamal, we owe that to his family.”
Police-involved shootings and killings of unarmed Black men in the hands of white police officers have led to mass protests across the country in recent years and the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Last year George Floyd was arrested by Minneapolis police, after a grocery store employee reported that he had allegedly used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
In a video, Floyd was seen handcuffed on May 25, 2020 with his face down on the street, pleading for his life, while the police officer stood there unfazed.
Floyd’s death reignited deep-rooted anger and outrage over police brutality toward Black Americans in the US and gave impetus to the Black Lives Matter movement at the global level.