OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA: Even as thousands of citizens protest the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, Oklahoma City residents have highlighted another disturbing incident from a year ago that involved another black man dying in police custody as he gasped, “I can’t breathe.”
Bodycam footage of the May 20, 2019 incident released by the Oklahoma City Police Department shows three officers, Jarred Tipton, Ashley Copeland, and Sgt. Jennifer Titus, restraining Derrick Scott, 42, who could be heard asking repeatedly for his medicine, and saying he can’t breathe.
You can watch the video here.
The confrontation had started after the officers had been called to an area south of downtown Oklahoma City shortly before 2 pm that day after receiving reports that a black man in the area was arguing with people and brandishing a gun, Oklahoma City police Capt. Larry Withrow said in a statement.
The footage shows Scott running away from the officers after one of them, identified as Tipton, asks him if he has any weapons. They manage to tackle and restrain him before removing a handgun from his pocket, as he begged, “I need my medicine. I need my medicine.”
After they get him under control, Scott can be heard pleading. “I can’t breathe… I can’t breathe, please.” In response, Tipton hits back, “I don’t care.” A couple of minutes later, another officer tells him, “You can breathe just fine.”
Scott eventually loses consciousness and becomes unresponsive. While an officer tries to administer CPR before the paramedics arrive at the scene, it proves too little, too late. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital the same evening.
An autopsy report on Scott’s death obtained by NBC News listed his cause of death as a “collapsed lung”. It also concluded that the police response did not result in a “fatal trauma” and listed several other “significant factors” that contributed to his death, including physical restraint, recent methamphetamine use, asthma, emphysema, and heart disease. His cause of death was listed as “undetermined.”
Withrow said an investigation into the incident by the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office had cleared all three officers of misconduct.
“I don’t know that there is anything that could have been done to monitor the suspect or do everything they could to ensure his health,” he said. “They ended up rolling him over, it’s a recovering position to allow him a better opportunity to breathe. They monitored his health throughout this incident and you can hear them in the video saying he still has a pulse.”
Asked about Tipton’s comments that he did not care, Withrow chalked it down to “heat of a conflict” and that it might have been said because “the officers are fighting with someone at that point.”
But following renewed interest over police brutality and racial inequality against African-Americans in the wake of Floyd’s death, local activists and Scott’s relatives have called for action to be taken against those responsible.
“The thing that bothered me in the video was how they treated his life,” said Ronald Scott, his uncle.
Rev. T Sheri Dickerson, a leader with the Black Lives Matter movement in the city, added, “If that is the policy and there is a lack of focus on humanity and civility to anyone, then they certainly need to be addressing and changing that policy effective immediately.”