Update: Feb. 1, 2020
No force was used on a suspect who died three days after experiencing a “medical emergency” while in the custody of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Chief Kerr Putney told reporters on Friday.
In his first public statement about the case, Putney said the suspect, Harold Easter, did not die as a result of police force. “I’m saying there was none…based on what we’ve seen. There was no use of force,” Putney said.
At a news conference that Mecklenburg District Attorney Spencer Merriweather also attended, Putney declined to discuss specifics of what what happened on the morning of January 23, when Easter was arrested on a drug-related charge. After consulting with Merriweather and Easter’s family, Putney asked the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) to take over the investigation.
He said discussing the case would be inappropriate while the SBI is investigating. He also said that CMPD wants to be respectful to the Easter family.
After the state agency completes its review, the case will go to Merriweather’s office, where prosecutors will decide whether criminal wrongdoing was involved on the part of any CMPD employee, Merriweather said.
“There has never been a question in my mind about the competency and ability of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to conduct these investigations…,” Merriweather told reporters. “The question, however, is whether it is the best outcome for a law enforcement agency to conduct an investigation where some of its officers are involved…”
Some of Easter’s family members attended the news conference but did not address reporters.
“Our heart goes out to the Easter family,” Putney said. “…This is not easy. It never is. I wish I could tell you this is going to be a pristine type of situation. It’s not. No loss of life is easy to watch. This is no different.”
January 30, 2020
SBI to investigate man’s death after police custody
The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) has been asked to investigate the case of a man who died after he experienced a “medical emergency” in the custody of Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers.
CMPD requested the state’s assistance after consulting with Mecklenburg District Attorney Spencer Merriweather and the family of Harold Easter, according to the department. Easter died Jan. 26, three days after he was arrested on suspicion that he took part in a drug transaction.
Shortly after his arrest, Easter experienced a “life-threatening medical emergency” while being processed by CMPD officers. He died days later at a hospital.
The department hasn’t said what might have caused Easter’s medical emergency but announced that five officers were placed on administrative leave while the case was being investigated. CMPD said the suspensions were standard procedure for in-custody death investigations.
The department named the officers as Sgt. Nicolas Vincent and officers Brentley Vinson, Michael Benfield, Michael Joseph and Shon Sheffield. All were assigned to the department’s Metro division in Charlotte’s northwest corridor.
Chief Kerr Putney and Merriweather called a press conference, scheduled for Friday afternoon, to discuss the SBI’s involvement in the case.
According to CMPD’s initial public report, Easter was arrested around 11:40 a.m. after patrol officers saw a “suspected drug transaction” in a neighborhood north of uptown. While in custody, he “began experiencing a medical emergency and lost consciousness” the department said. Officers administered medical aid and called for Medic, the department said in a press statement.