Video shows black man pleading 'I can't breathe' during 2019 arrest in Oklahoma; he died in custody later

Mr Derrick Scott, 42, was arrested May 20, 2019, when officers confronted him after receiving reports that someone was brandishing a firearm. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - The Oklahoma City Police Department this week released video of the arrest of a black man last year, in which he can be seen pinned on the ground, saying "I can't breathe", and an officer replies "I don't care".

The man died in custody shortly afterwards.

The man, Mr Derrick Scott, 42, was arrested May 20, 2019, when officers confronted him after receiving reports that someone was brandishing a firearm, Captain Larry Withrow said at a news conference on Tuesday (June 9). Mr Scott had a loaded gun in his pocket, Captain Withrow said.

A medical examiner's report released in August lists Mr Scott's probable cause of death as a collapsed right lung and cites physical restraint, recent methamphetamine use, heart disease and emphysema as contributing factors. The manner of death is "unknown", it says.

Video of the arrest, captured by police body cameras, was released this week after Mr Scott's family and a local Black Lives Matter group demanded more details about his death.

It has quickly bolstered calls to reform the tactics that police officers use during arrests. Mr Scott's plea of "I can't breathe" echoed some of the last words of Mr George Floyd, a black man whose death after being pinned by an officer in Minneapolis last month has set off worldwide protests over police brutality and racism.

They were also some of the last words of Mr Eric Garner, who died in 2014 at the hands of police in New York City after pleading "I can't breathe" 11 times during his arrest.

On Thursday, the NAACP Legal Defence and Educational Fund tweeted news of the newly released video of Mr Scott's arrest and said: "We must continue to demand the end of fatal police manoeuvres."

In an interview with a local television station, KOCO 5 News, Mr Scott's mother Vickey said the video showed that police treated her son "like he was an animal". Derrick Ollie Scott Jr., Mr Scott's son, said he wanted the officers to be charged and convicted.

"My dad, he did not have to die," he said.

The video showed officers confronting him in a parking lot. In the recording, Mr Scott can be seen starting to run from the officers. A male officer tackles Mr Scott, after which Mr Scott can be heard gasping "I can't breathe", and the officer replies "I don't care". Mr Scott repeatedly says "OK" and "I can't breathe" as officers handcuff him, one straddling his back, and then moving down to his leg.

Another officer holds her knee across Mr Scott's shoulders. After the officers restrain Mr Scott's hands, they roll him onto his side, into what Captain Withrow called a "recovery position" that would allow "for a better opportunity to breathe and relax while they maintain control of the suspect".

After several minutes, an ambulance arrives. Mr Scott can be heard crying and being told to "quit fighting". As he is lifted towards a stretcher, he jumps up, kicks outwards and then falls again. Later, in the ambulance, bodycam footage shows one of the officers performing CPR.

Mr Scott was then taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Captain Withrow said that investigations of Mr Scott's death conducted by the Police Department, district attorney's office and medical examiner's office showed there was "no indication of any wrongdoing". He said the officers straddling Mr Scott were conducting "academy-taught" manoeuvres.

He also said that "once they had any indication that there was any medical distress, they called for medical assistance immediately and began to monitor the subject". The district attorney for Oklahoma County, Mr David Prater, could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

Asked about the officer who replied "I don't care" to Mr Scott, Captain Withrow said: "During the heat of a conflict like that, certainly that may be something an officer says; just understand the officers are fighting with someone at that point."

He added: "It's not uncommon for people when you're struggling with them, when you're trying to get them into control, to say, 'I can't breathe.' You hear that frequently."

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