SLED report: Officers did not specify Jamal Sutherland was experiencing mental health issues

Local News

Jamal Sutherland (NCPD body camera)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division released its final report on the Jamal Sutherland death investigation shortly after Ninth Judicial Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced she would not be filing charges against two detention deputies.

That report shows officers failed to verify Sutherland was experiencing any mental health issues when he was being booked into the detention center. It also stated there were no alternatives to jail for mental health patients.

Wilson on Monday announced she would not be filing charges against the deputies following an extensive investigation into Sutherland’s death. The deputies, she said, were following protocol set in place by the previous administration and there wasn’t enough evidence to bring charges against Detention Deputy Brian Houle or Detention Sergeant Lindsay Fickett.

“Based on the facts and the law, I know that the evidence would not support convictions of Lindsey Fickett or Brian Houle,” she said.

Sutherland, who was a patient at Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health in North Charleston, damaged facility equipment and assaulted a staff member, according to SLED’s report. That is what led staff to call the North Charleston Police Department to assist.

Sutherland was arrested for third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and taken to the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center.

“On January 5, 2021, at approximately 9:00 a.m., Inmate Jamal Sutherland, was scheduled to attend a bond hearing for the charges filed by NCPD. Sutherland refused to leave his cell for the bond hearing. SACDC command, citing a previous command directive ordered Sutherland extracted from his cell, located in the Behavioral Management Unit (BMU), cell number 1232, to attend the bond hearing.”

The report shows Sgt. Lindsey Fickett and Correctional Officer Brian Houle, who are members of the detention center’s Special Operations Group, repeatedly tase and pepper spray the man.

“Staff noticed that Sutherland was having a medical emergency and was examined by a certified medical assistant (CMA) India Burch who was present during the extraction.”

But SLED’s investigation found the inmate intake form failed to specify that Sutherland was suffering from mental health issues.

Agent notes say one of the line items, which reads, “Has the arrestee demonstrated behaviors that suggest mental illness,” was check marked “no.” Yet they say the arresting officer, PFC Washington-Saunders, verbally notified jail staff of Sutherland’s mental health issues. Those remarks were never captured on video recordings.

“PFC Washington-Saunders stated she completed the jail’s intake forms but check marked the box “no” regarding if the arrestee was suffering from any mental illnesses. She said she did so having “over-read” that portion, but verbally notified jail staff of Sutherland’s mental health issues,” SLED’s report shows.

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