The Charleston County Council in South Carolina will pay $10 million to the family of Jamal Sutherland, a Black inmate who passed away in police custody. The decision was made during a council meeting on Tuesday night (May 25), CNN reported.
Sutherland passed away at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston on Jan. 5 following a struggle with two deputies. According to graphic footage of the fatal encounter, the late man —who refused to leave his cell for a bond court hearing — was shocked with a stun gun at least “six to eight times” by Sgt. Lindsay Fickett and Detention Deputy Brian Houle.
The detention officers also used pepper spray on the victim before proceeding to press him against the floor and place a spit mask over his head. After ignoring his pleas to breathe, they tried to place him in a restraint chair, but Sutherland — who battled with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder — appeared to be unresponsive. A medic was brought in to check his vitals; attempts to revive him via CPR were unsuccessful.
Fickett and Houle were initially suspended but were later fired for their roles in Sutherland’s death. Sutherland’s family, however, also wants the detention officers to be criminally charged. “There are people who should have been accountable from the day my son was murdered,” his mother, Amy Sutherland, said following the announcement of the settlement. “We should not be wondering what we’re going to charge them with, but when we’re going to charge them.”
“If we allow them to get away with killing Jamal, then think about your families, one of them with mental illness,” she continued. “Mental illness is not, I repeat, it is not a reason for a murder. Mental illness should not have us running away from people because they’re different. Make sure that there is some justice. They need jail, and they need jail today.”
The charging decision will be announced “before the end of June,” per Charleston County Solicitor Scarlett Wilson.