(TMU) – Four police officers in Shreveport, Louisiana, are facing a possible decade behind bars after being charged with negligent homicide and malfeasance in the death of a mentally ill man whom they initially claimed died from a heart attack, but was later exposed as having died after being savagely beaten and tased for four and a half minutes before being deprived of medical assistance.
The four officers with the Shreveport Police Department — Brian Ross, Treona McCarter, James LeClare and D’Marea Johnson — were charged on Friday for their role in the April 5 death of Tommie Dale McGlothen Jr., 44, who died in police custody during an arrest attempt.
Caddo Parish coroner Dr. Todd Thoma determined that McGlothen’s death “was preventable” because the officers should have determined that he urgently needed medical treatment after they beat him, according to the district attorney’s office.
When McGlothen’s family members went to see his body, they noticed that his entire right side of the face was swollen and he also had a broken jaw. However, police maintained that he had died of a heart attack.
Police had three encounters with McGlothen on April 5, and in each case he “exhibited signs he was a mental patient in need of medical treatment,” prosecutors said.
Witnesses of the third, fatal encounter say that police had been called after McGlothen fought with a neighbor, whose driveway he had blocked before following the homeowner indoors while mumbling incoherently and showing clear signs of mental distress and paranoia. According to family lawyers, he had been previously diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and depression.
Witnesses claim that McGlothen was pacing up and down the street and appeared to be “thrown off in his head and not acting mentally right,” reports KSLA.
When officers arrived, they began using mace, nightsticks and tasers on McGlothen to subdue him. In cellphone video of the incident, officers can be seen forcing a screaming McGlothen to the ground while punching and kicking him repeatedly. The officers also sat on him, shocked him with a stun gun, and beat his legs with a baton before slamming him against their squad car. The brawl lasted at least four-and-a-half minutes.
The officers then held McGlothen in their car for 48 minutes before realizing that he wasn’t breathing. McGlothen was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly afterwards.
According to the county coroner’s office, McGlothen was “not a candidate for incarceration” due to his medical condition, while the officers’ wanton use of excessive force was a crucial factor McGlothen’s death from so-called “excited delirium.” The coroner also noted that his death was “possibly preventable.”
When family members demanded an investigation of the arrest, the Shreveport Police Department failed to submit an investigative report to Caddo Parish District Attorney James Stewart until May 29.
At that point, the district attorney found that the report they filed was “missing reports, statements, downloads and other vital information essential to conduct a thorough and complete review,” indicating a clear sign to cover the incident up. The officers still remained on duty during the investigation.
However, on June 8, the cellphone video footage of the incident emerged, showing the nearly five-minute struggle that led to McGlothen’s death.
In a June statement, District Attorney Stewart wrote that he believed there was clear evidence the officers had used excessive force, violated the department’s policy on the use of tasers, and failed to call for medical assistance when McGlothen was clearly unconscious.
A Caddo Parish Grand Jury indicted the officers on charges of negligent homicide and malfeasance. On Friday, the officers turned themselves in for arrest before they were each individually released on a $20,000 bond.
The officers now face up to 10 years in prison if they are convicted on both counts.
“I just appreciate the work the D.A. has done in bringing justice for my father,” McGlothen’s son, Tommie McGlothen III, said.
James Carter, a lawyer for McGlothen’s family, said that the case is a tragic reflection of how people with mental disorders are treated by police.
“It’s just a sad situation how the mentally disabled are dealt with and how law enforcement, when they have notification of these matters, act abusively and use excessive force,” Mr. Carter told the New York Times.
The move to indict the officers was “only one step toward justice,” he added.
“The family has worked very hard,” Carter said. “They are obviously exhausted but at the same time have a sense of jubilance. But there’s no mistake about it — there’s still a long way to go on this matter.”
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