A video released exclusively by MSNBC Wednesday seems to show three Virginia police officers executing a handcuffed man with their tasers in 2013. The man, Linwood Lambert, was in police custody being taken to a hospital Emergency Room. Instead of receiving treatment, the shackled man was tased more than 20 times, sometimes by three police officers at the same time, and he died in custody outside the hospital.
No one has been charged in the incident. In fact, the three white officers were all promoted by the South Boston, VA police department His family is suing for wrongful death. The shocking video, which is hard to watch, was not shown to prosecutors, the coroner, or the public previously. The family sued forcing the police to turn over the video which MSNBC released.
According to MSNBC, Linwood “Ray” Lambert, a 46-year-old African-American construction worker, was staying at a Super 8 motel in South Boston, Virginia. In the middle of the night of May 4, 2013, police received calls about noise. When officers Tiffany Bratton, Clifton Mann and Travis Clay came to Lambert’s door they say he was acting paranoid, hallucinating and telling them there were bodies buried in the ceiling.
Lambert was unarmed and not suspected of any crime, so the officers did not arrest him. They took him to Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital for care, cuffing his hands for the ride. Video shows an officer calling the hospital, asking for the mental health care worker on duty.
As the officers pulled up to the hospital, Lambert kicked out the squad car window, jumped out and sprinted roughly 20 feet towards the ER entrance. The officers ran after him and began tasing him. Lambert’s body goes stiff and, with his hands cuffed, his arms could not break the fall when he hit the cement.
The three officers surrounded him on the ground. Officer Bratton told him, “Every time you get up, I’m going to pop you.” Lambert pleaded with them to stop and can be heard moaning in the recording. The officers tell Lambert to lie down, stay down, get on his belly, and roll over – while warning they will tase him again. “I’m going to light you up again – roll over, roll over, turn over!” Bratton says.
Lambert remained on the ground but the officers tased him again and restrained his legs with shackles. Then, as Lambert says, “I just did cocaine.” Officers then tell Lambert he is under arrest for disorderly conduct and destruction of property. Instead of taking him into the ER for treatment, they put him in the police car and tased him repeatedly before driving to the jail.
Officer Mann remained briefly at the hospital, where he was asked by hospital worker if the police were going to bring Lambert inside. “We were,” the officer said, chuckling, “now he’s going to jail.” “He’s bleeding like a hog,” Mann said, “we thought he was crazy, and then he finally told us he was on cocaine.”
The coroner, who was not aware of the tasing, ruled the cause of death cocaine overdose. No charges have been filed, but the local prosecutor told MSNBC that the case was still open. It seems there is no sense of urgency in investigating the death of an African-American male by white police officers in South Boston, VA.
A single, 5-second Taser discharge carries 50,000 volts and generally incapacitates a person. Yet the three officers discharged their Tasers a total of 20 times over roughly half an hour— a level capable of inflicting serious injury or death, according to federal guidelines.
The South Boston Police Department’s own rules state Taser use “is no longer justified once the subject has been restrained.” When a tasered suspect needs medical help, those rules state officers may “take the suspect to the emergency room at the Halifax Regional Hospital,” and should do so “before” taking the suspect to jail.
Federal guidelines also strictly limit Taser use. The Justice Department states that police should limit tasings to people showing “active aggression” – not passive individuals, or those “fleeing” without posing a separate danger. The guidelines discourage repeat tasering, noting that exposure lasting over 15 seconds can “increase the risk of serious injury or death and should be avoided.”
Will the release of the videos result in charges against the police officers? It is not clear. Will Lambert’s family win their suit? We’ll see. The videos are certain to get the attention of the Black Lives Matter movement. Stay tuned.