Family asks city council to view police body cam videoBy Yasmine Regester / November 21, 2018
The family of Marcus Deon Smith have requested that the Greensboro City Council review and publicly discuss police body worn camera footage of the night their family member died in police custody.
The family, attorney and community supporters held a press conference on November 14 at Beloved Community Center detailing how the 38 year-old died while in police custody during the early morning hours of September 8, 2018 on North Church Street in downtown Greensboro.
Smith’s father, George Smith and the family’s attorney, Graham Holt, viewed the police footage on October 8. Members of Marcus Deon Smith’s family believe that he died because of being held in a ‘hogtie restraint’ which caused him to stop breathing. ‘Hogtying’ is a controversial form of restraint in which a person’s hands and feet are tied together behind their back, forcing them to lie flat on their stomach.“The people need to know a man died in the custody of GPD (Greensboro Police Department), and people need to know the circumstances surrounding it,” said Holt. “The officers were talking over his body and didn’t notice he had stopped breathing. By the time they noticed it was too late. The family wants to hold these officers accountable.”
Holt added that other police departments across the country have banned the hogtying form of restraint because of the serious risk of injury or death associated with such practices.
The Smith family has written a letter to the Greensboro City Council asking the council to view the police recording and take punitive action against the officers involved. A group of seven pastors and more than a dozen community organizations have also written a statement of support, which was delivered to members of Greensboro City Council, along with the family’s statement, and a statement from their attorney, on November 13, 2018.
Marcus Hyde of the Greensboro Homeless Union, one of the supporting groups, said interactions like these with the police happen far too often.
“Marcus was a poor person and he was Black. It’s too often that homeless folks, Black folks, people of color in this community die and are forgotten about. But our community refuses to forget about Marcus. We need to make sure what happened doesn’t happen again.”
According to a news release from the police department following Smith’s death, it states that he became combative and collapsed, and that EMS arrived about five minutes after the police encountered him. Smith was then taken to a hospital for further treatment and died about an hour later.
The Smith family claims that the short press release produced by the Greensboro Police Department regarding Marcus’s death is lacking in crucial details and offers a false narrative about how he died.
Holt noted that in the camera footage, Smith repeatedly asked the officers for help. They put him in the back of a police car, although he was not under arrest, and Smith became visibly panicked. The officers let him out of the car, but then proceeded to subdue him with a ‘hogtie restraint.’
Kim Suber, Marcus Deon Smith’s sister, said that her brother was in no way suicidal or violent, but was experiencing a mental health crisis.
“He was not trying to harm himself or the officers. He has never been suicidal. He was asking the officers for help. Put the uniform aside and be a human being, and show care for another human being,” said Suber.
The police officers involved — AG Lewis, JC Payne, LA Andrews and RR Duncan — were put on administrative duty, as per department protocol, and a State Bureau of Investigation case was opened following the incident.
A statement released by the city in response to the press conference regarding the in-custody death of Smith, reads:
“The loss of any member of the community is unfortunate. The City of Greensboro has a process for residents to bring concerns to the Greensboro Criminal Justice Advisory Commission. The commission is tasked with reviewing criminal justice issues and working closely with the Greensboro Police Department.”
According to the city’s statement, per Greensboro Police Department policy, the State Bureau of Investigation was contacted to conduct an independent investigation. The Guilford County District Attorney’s office forwarded a letter to the Greensboro Police Department (GPD) indicating, based on the information collected by the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) so far, pending its final report, there was no criminal liability with the police actions concerning this incident. The district attorney’s office stated that the officers acted at all times within the scope of their duties and with justification under all applicable laws.
Although the SBI’s final report is not complete, the city states that the position of the district attorney’s office is that there is sufficient evidence to support its’ decision related to the officers’ actions. A GPD internal review was also completed and it was found there were no violations of policy.
In their request, the Smith family has asked that the Greensboro City Council review all pertinent body camera footage regarding this case immediately, hold the individual officers accountable for their actions and to change the Greensboro Police Department policy to bar officers from engaging in such restraints in the future.
“Being a mother, this is pain that I have to endure for the rest of my life,” said Smith’s mother, Mary. “I knew Marcus. Never suicidal. Marcus was my spiritual guide. My friend. My child. I buried my child and I don’t know why.”