Oklahoma City police this week released body-camera video of a 2019 arrest of an armed black man who died not long after saying repeatedly during the encounter that he couldn’t breathe — footage that protesters had recently demanded.
The police footage of Derrick Scott’s arrest was released to news media after demonstrators demanded the video in a recent Black Lives Matter protest in front of a city police station.
The demand came amid national uproar over last month’s death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, who was not armed and had pleaded that he couldn’t breathe as officers restrained him during an arrest. In that case, an officer is seen kneeling on the side of Floyd’s neck, and this has moved some police departments around the world to start banning neck restraints.
In the Oklahoma City case, police have said Scott had a gun and ran from officers who approached him, and that all techniques used to restrain him were proper. The officers were cleared of criminal wrongdoing, OklahomaCity police say.
‘I can’t breathe’
The incident happened on May 20, 2019, in Oklahoma City. Someone reported that a man had pulled a gun on another man in a parking lot outside a taco truck, according to a 911 call obtained by the Oklahoman newspaper.
When officers arrived around 1:40 p.m., they found a suspect, Scott, and began talking to him, city police Capt. Larry Withrow said.Scott, 42, initially puts both his hands in the air, but then turns and runs across the parking lot, the footage shows. At least two officers run after him.
Less than 30 seconds later, an officer catches up and tackles Scott to the ground near a curb, and tells him to put his hands behind his back.
The officer straddles Scott’s back briefly as he works to gain control.About 10 seconds after the tackle, Scott says “I can’t breathe” for the first time.”I don’t care,” the tackling officer, a man, responds, still trying to control Scott’s arms.A second officer — a woman — yells, “Keep your hands behind your back.” The male officer tells Scott to keep his hand out of his pockets.The female officer says, “I’m going to Tase you,” as she helps to subdue Scott.”
I can’t breathe, please,” Scott says, less than 15 seconds after he made the first plea. “I can’t breathe.”
The male officer, then kneeling beside Scott, straddles him across the back, appearing to try pull Scott’s arm behind his back to be handcuffed.When a third officer arrives, she tells Scott, “Stop, stop resisting now.”
As all three officers work to put him in handcuffs, Scott continues to repeat: “I can’t breathe.”Once Scott is in handcuffs, the male officer switches from the straddling position and puts one knee on the back of Scott’s leg.
‘He’s acting like he’s unconscious’
Nearly a minute later, as the officers attempt to roll Scott over, one of the female officers can be heard saying, “He’s acting like he’s unconscious.” One of the officers removes a gun from Scott’s pocket as he lies handcuffed, face down in the grass. Scott can no longer be heard on the recording.About three more minutes pass without Scott saying anything. As the officers discuss details of the takedown before rolling Scott over on his side, he appears to be unconscious.A female officer says, “I’ll hold this leg down, but we need to get his knee, like, a little bit bent so that if he is not faking.”
“Stay with us, man,” the male officer says, as he appears to tap on Scott while his knee remains on Scott’s leg.
In an image captured on the camera, Scott appears passed out.The male officers says, “He’s not really,” and begins to knead his fist into Scott’s chest. Scott’s head bobs with no apparent response as the female officer says, “He’s fine.” A third officer checks his pulse and says, “He’s got a pulse, he’s breathing.”
During this time Scott’s face remains mostly off-camera. He is silent and his legs do not appear to move while the officers wait for an ambulance, which officers had called because Scott appeared to be in medical distress, police said.After about nine minutes, paramedics arrive.
Scott appears alert as paramedics examine him
The officer who had been kneeling on Scott stands up and places his foot on Scott’s leg as the paramedics inspect him. Together they sit him up, from the back. Scott is holding his own head up and seems to once again be alert. With a jolt he begins to moan and resist the police officers, and they forcefully hold him down on the ground.
Scott’s moans descend into a deep cry as officers and paramedics try to stand him up. As the officers lift Scott, he raises his knees as if to try to kick the officers but does not make contact. They continue to lift him onto a stretcher and cuff him to the gurney.
After he was loaded into the ambulance, paramedics told the officers that he had become unresponsive, according to police. One of the officers helped paramedics administer CPR, police said.Scott was taken to a medical center, where he was pronounced dead at 2:56 p.m., a report from the state’s chief medical examiner’s office says. That was about an hour after Scott was arrested.
He died of a collapsed lung, medical examiner says
The cause of death was a collapsed right lung, according to a report from the medical examiner’s office.
Physical restraint, recent methamphetamine use, asthma, bullous emphysema (an air pocket in the lung) and atherosclerotic heart disease were listed as contributing factors to his death.
There was “no fatal trauma,” according to the medical examiner’s report.
Following an investigation by the Oklahoma City Police Department, the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the case and determined there was nothing inappropriate on the part of the officers, nor any evidence of any misconduct by the officers, police said.
Scott’s mother: ‘No mother or father should have to go through this’
Scott did have asthma, his mother, Vickey Scott, told CNN.Vickey Scott said she didn’t learn of her son’s death until four days after he died. She wasn’t allowed to see his body until the day before his funeral, eight days after the incident, she said.She said she hasn’t watched all of the body camera video because it was too painful.”No mother or father should have to go through this,” she told CNN.
Police say the officers’ moves were proper
Withrow, the police department spokesman, said the techniques used to restrain Scott are taught at police academy.
He said: About straddling Scott’s back: “(The officer) starts out up on his abdomen area, when he’s straddling his back, trying to gain control of him. As they gain more control over the suspect and he’s handcuffed, that officer is sliding farther down on the suspect’s body to his waist and ultimately to his leg, not restricting any of his ability to breathe at that time.
The female officer who placed her knee across Scott’s shoulder blade did this to gain a reasonable amount of control while not restricting airflow, and it offered the “least likelihood of injuring a suspect.”