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South Carolina Settles Over Wrongful Death Of Jamal Sutherland


In South Carolina, the family of a mentally ill man who died at a detention center will get $10 million as part of a civil settlement. Newly released videos show white deputies repeatedly jolting the 31-year-old Black man with tasers and pepper spray. Here's South Carolina Public Radio's Victoria Hansen.

VICTORIA HANSEN, BYLINE: In January, Jamal Sutherland's family committed him to a mental health facility. They thought he was safe. But after a fight, the hospital ordered his arrest and transfer to a detention center in Charleston. The next day, Sutherland had a bond hearing and was being taken from his cell. In graphic bodycam video, he seems confused, asking deputies, what's the meaning of this? They tell him to stay down and turn on his stomach, later insisting he resisted. They stunned Sutherland at least six times with a taser. A knee can be seen on his back. And at one point, Sutherland says he can't breathe. Eventually, his body goes limp.

Earlier this month, when the videos were released, his mother Amy was horrified watching how her son died.


AMY SUTHERLAND: Mental illness does not give anybody the right to put their hands on my child. That's my child.

HANSEN: Last week, two deputies were fired. Local authorities are considering criminal charges. But Tuesday night, Charleston County council members voted unanimously to pay the Sutherland family $10 million. Here's Councilman Teddie Pryor.


TEDDIE PRYOR: We know that no amount of money will bring their loved one back. But I think this starts the healing process.

HANSEN: Councilman Brantley Moody says his vote didn't come without reservations.


BRANTLEY MOODY: What was done was a terrible injustice. But how do you settle it?

HANSEN: He's concerned about what he calls a race to the courthouse - paying a civil settlement before a possible criminal case. Community activist Pastor Thomas Dixon says he's pleased by the council's quick decision.

THOMAS DIXON: They must have been able to see that there was something terribly wrong. They didn't just give $10 million away.

HANSEN: But he says the injustice continues because the former deputies involved have not been charged. Pastor Dixon wants to know why the videos of Sutherland's death weren't released sooner.

For NPR News, I'm Victoria Hansen in Charleston, S.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Victoria Hansen is our Lowcountry connection covering the Charleston community, a city she knows well. She grew up in newspaper newsrooms and has worked as a broadcast journalist for more than 20 years. Her first reporting job brought her to Charleston where she covered local and national stories like the Susan Smith murder trial and the arrival of the Citadel’s first female cadet.