COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Senator Marlon Kimpson on Thursday delivered remarks on the January death of a Lowcountry man while in custody at the Al Cannon Detention Center.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Kimpson asked the public to be patient in calling for the video of Sutherland’s death to be released and for all the facts to be made clear.
“In Charleston, we’ve known Jamal’s name for some time … but soon people across the country will know him and will be calling for the same answers that his family has been searching for since he was killed in January,” he said. “Unfortunately, I believe that the coming days will give the public a grim, heartbreaking look into Mr. Sutherland’s final moments.”
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey on Wednesday released a video response regarding the North Charleston Police Department’s role in Sutherland’s arrest. That video included excerpts of the initial 9-1-1 call from the behavioral health center in which Sutherland was a patient.
The caller says that patients are fighting and that several people are in danger. The situation escalates and the caller says that Jamal [Sutherland] has assaulted a staff member. She then calls for help multiple times.
When asked how many people are hurt, the caller estimates over 10 people were injured in the event.
Summey made clear that although it was a mental health crisis, Sutherland could not be transported to another mental health center because he was already at a mental health center. He said that NCPD officers had an obligation to safely transport him to a secure location, which they did by taking him to jail.
Limited video of Sutherland’s encounter with NCPD officers shows him in an agitated state screaming at officers not to touch him.
Officers let Sutherland go, still handcuffed, and ask him to stand against a wall. Sutherland continues yelling while officers and a jail nurse keep him in the designated area.
Once he was calm enough, he was escorted from the intake area to the jail, placed in the detention center’s custody, and the footage ends.
Sen. Kimpson said he has not yet seen the video of Sutherland’s death. “I’ve had discussions with people who have first-hand knowledge of it, and they all find it very, very disturbing,” he stated on the Senate floor.
He said we must recognize that mental illness is not a crime “and certainly not deserving of death.”
“At a minimum, when law enforcement is involved, they must be adequately trained to intervene in such situations. I know of very few circumstances where a mentally ill person restrained and behind bars should result in the death by the hands of law enforcement while in custody,” said Sen. Kimpson.
In addition to the patience of the public, Sen. Kimpson is calling on law enforcement, political leaders, and the public-at-large to understand the “deep frustration these situations cause in communities of people who always believe that they are beaten, battered, and even killed at times for no justifiable reason.”
He said clearly there must be accountability and systematic policy changes to address the issue.