'I can't breathe': Oklahoma City police release video after 2019 in-custody death of asthmatic man
OKLAHOMA CITY - Body camera footage released on June 8 shows a fatal 2019 encounter involving Oklahoma City police and 42-year-old Derrick Scott, who told officers “I can’t breathe,” as police pinned him to the ground.
In the footage, which was filmed by police body cams during the May 20, 2019 arrest, three officers can be seen restraining Scott, who was asthmatic, as he repeatedly asks for his medicine and says he can’t breathe. The footage features one officer saying, “I don’t care,” while another says, “You can breathe just fine.”
Police said they recovered a handgun from Scott’s pants pocket during the arrest. Scott was allegedly attempting to rob a taco truck, according to an autopsy report following his death.
Paramedics were called when Scott became unresponsive, and he was later pronounced dead at a local hospital, according to a statement from Oklahoma City police.
“An ambulance was requested due to the suspect showing signs of medical distress. Once the suspect was loaded into the ambulance EMSA advised officers he had become unresponsive,” the police incident report said.
Police said Scott was transported to a nearby emergency room, where he died.
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The Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner ruled the specific manner of Scott’s death as “undetermined.”
“In my opinion, based on the circumstances surrounding death and the findings at autopsy, Derrick Elliott Scott died as a result of a right pneumothorax [collapsed lung] with physical restraint, recent methamphetamine use, asthma, bullous emphysema, and atherosclerotic heart disease as contributing factors,” wrote Dr. Edana Stroberg, who examined Scott’s body.
According to a spokesperson for the Oklahoma City Police Department, all officers involved in Scott’s death are still patrol officers and were cleared after a formal review by the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office.
“District Attorney David Prater found there was nothing inappropriate on the part of the officers, nor was there evidence of any misconduct by the officers,” according to the police report.
The release of the footage comes as police departments across the country are implementing new tactics following outrage and protests that have erupted over the death of George Floyd who uttered the same words, “I can’t breathe,” before dying during an encounter with Minneapolis police on May 25.
On Tuesday, Tulsa police released video and said they were investigating officers who recently handcuffed and arrested two black teenagers for jaywalking. Video of the June 4 incident showed officers forcibly pinned one of the two unidentified teens stomach-down on the ground.
“Get off me! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” one teen shouts in the police video.
“You can breathe just fine,” the officer replies.
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As protests condemning systemic racism and police brutality intensify around the world, police officers in the U.S. have been criticized for dousing crowds with pepper spray, striking protesters with batons, steering police cars into throngs of people, shoving demonstrators and screaming curses.
Last week, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota announced the filing of a class-action lawsuit against Minnesota’s state and local law enforcement officials, citing instances in which journalists have allegedly experienced “repeated abuse” by law enforcement officers while covering the anti-racism protests.
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In California, the Los Angeles Police Department announced a moratorium on its policy regarding the use of sleeper holds.
“On June 7, 2020, Police Commission-President Eileen Decker requested an immediate review of the Department’s policy regarding the use of the Cartoid Restraint Control Hold. Today, following that review, Commission President Decker and Chief Moore agreed to an immediate moratorium,” a statement from the department read.
In Florida, the Orange County Sheriff’s office announced a new policies requiring deputies to intervene if they see any unreasonable use of force.
Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Washington state have also enacted new policing tactics aimed creating reform in how law enforcement conduct themselves when interacting with the public.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.