Arkansas authorities have released bodycam footage of a fatal arrest that happened in February, showing that the man told officers, "I can't breathe."
The sadly familiar video shows 39-year-old Lionel Morris pinned to the floor by police in a store in Conway, Arkansas. Per the police report, authorities were called to the store after employees claim they saw Morris and another man remove a drone from its packaging, assumedly with an intent to steal. When police arrived at the scene, Morris ran from them before he was tackled and tased. The video footage shows that at least four officers violently restrained him after he was placed in handcuffs, with Morris struggling for over six minutes. In total, there were eight officers involved in the incident.
"Oh my God, oh my God! Please help me, please," said Morris in the clip as he bled from his face. "I can't breathe. I can't breathe!" One officer responded to his cries for help, and said, "If you can talk, you can breathe. Chill out." Local ABC affiliate KATV reports that the other suspect was Morris' girlfriend, Brandi Arnold. During the altercation, Morris was punched by one officer twice, who said they did it in an attempt to make him cooperate. "I'll breaking your fucking wrist," another officer said while handcuffing him.
After he was subdued by police, Morris can be seen vomiting as officers turned him on his side. "All this over a drone," one of the officers can be heard saying. When paramedics arrived at the scene shortly after, they discovered Morris was "pulseless and unresponsive," and he was pronounced dead en route to a local hospital. Despite all the evidence to indicate that he was subjected to police brutality, prosecutors have cleared the officers involved.
"After a thorough review, the prosecutor determined there was no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing by the Conway Police Department or the Conway police officers involved in this unfortunate incident," said Chief William Tapley. "The level of drugs Mr Morris had in his system and the strain he exerted while struggling with police ultimately contributed to his death."
According to the medical examiner, the cause of death was found to be methamphetamine intoxication with exertion, struggle, restraint and conducted electrical weapon deployment. While the drugs were reportedly found in his system, Chief William Tapley neglected to highlight the rest of Morris' cause of death in his statement. Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry has called for all eight officers to be placed on paid leave amid an internal review of the incident. Additionally, he said that the bodycam footage for all eight officers should be released to the public.