Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano speaks out on death of Jamal Sutherland

Charleston County News

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano addressed media for the first time regarding the death of Jamal Sutherland a little less than 24 hours after of video of Sutherland’s death was released at the Al Cannon Detention Center.

Sutherland died while being subdued and extracted from his cell for a bond hearing just three hours into Graziano’s first official day as Charleston County Sheriff on January 4th.

One of the most talked about points of change for Sheriff Graziano when she was campaigning for the job was transparency. Some of those who supported her run for office say the sheriff hasn’t lived up to promise when it comes to the handling of Sutherland’s death investigation.

During the press conference, Sheriff Graziano called the video of Sutherland’s death horrific.

“Our responsibility is the safety of Jamal Sutherland and he died in our facility so we need to examine that,” says Sheriff Graziano.

Calls for answers, accountability, transparency and responsibility pouring in from across the community and state leaving some calling her for resignation while others say those calls go to far and more people are to blame.

“I’m not pointing fingers at anybody, I’ll take responsibility for what we can take responsibility for,” says Sheriff Graziano.

Sutherland was arrested by the North Charleston Police Department after an altercation at Palmetto Behavioral Health where he had been seeking help for mental health issues. Sutherland was transported by NCPD to the Al Cannon Detention Center on the evening of January 4th where he was processed and booked. The same day Sheriff Graziano was sworn in as Charleston County Sheriff and just hours before her watch as the county’s top law enforcement official would start.

On the morning of January 5th, CCSO Deputies were directed to pull Sutherland and take him to a bond hearing.

Just three hours into Sheriff Graziano’s first day on the job, Sutherland died in the detention center.
Now some of those who supported her run for office have questions for the Sheriff.

“I don’t have no faith in the Sheriff we have now and I supported her,” says Jerome Heyward, a Councilman with the City of North Charleston.

“It’s horrendous,” says Marcus McDonald of Charleston Black Lives Matter. “What job can you kill somebody and come back to work?”

Deputies were ordered to extract Sutherland from his cell in order to attend a bond hearing leading to the events of Sutherland’s tragic death.

“Since that day, I’ve changed that policy and no longer allow forced bond hearings,” says Sheriff Graziano.

Mental health has been an issue hot on the Sheriff’s radar including finding ways to improve the agencies policies for detention center residents as many in the county’s jail are struggling.

“We have seven 750 people in there and we have one mental health professional and it’s just not enough and we need more,” says Sheriff Graziano.

With all the calls for change, Sheriff Graziano says her agency can’t do it alone and the change will take time.

“We are developing policies and procedures for mental health,” says Sheriff Graziano. “We’re working on that but we need help, we need professionals input – we don’t have all of the answers.”

For many, there are answers yet to be uncovered and questions still to be answered.

“I’m asking you to trust the process,” says Sheriff Graziano. “Trust the process that we have in place, understand that we are making changes as we can and as we see fit.”

Sheriff Graziano says the Sheriff’s Office is continuing to conduct an internal investigation of Sutherland’s death while awaiting the final report from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. She says policies will continue to be reviewed until necessary change has been made.

A spokesperson with the Sheriff’s Office says Sheriff Graziano has no response to the calls for her resignation because she has yet to hear the calls for her resignation.

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