Footage shows Lindsay Fickett and Deputy Brian Houle pepper spraying and tasing Sutherland before one of them knelt on his back. He could be heard saying “I can’t breathe” before dying soon after.
Two sheriff's deputies in South Carolina have been fired for their involvement in the case of the death of a Black man who had died after he was forcibly removed from his jail cell in North Charleston in January.
"Today, I made the decision to terminate the two detention deputies involved in this case," Kristin Graziano, the Charleston County sheriff, said in a statement.
"I must weigh the interest of public safety for the community against any incident that creates even the perception of an impairment to the operation of the Detention Center for the safety of all residents, staff and our Community," the statement added.
Footage released last week by the sheriff's office showed the deputies pepper spraying and tasing the Black man, Jamal Sutherland, many times after he appeared to resist leaving his cell for a bail hearing, CNN reported.
Statement from Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano on Jamal Sutherland case: “Today, I made the decision to terminate the two detention deputies involved in this case. I must weigh the interest of public safety for the community against any incident... 1/2... #chsnews pic.twitter.com/b4ThXtKLR8— ChasCoSheriff (@ChasCoSheriff) May 17, 2021
"I can't breathe"
The footage showed one of the deputies placing a knee on the back of Sutherland, and Sutherland saying, "I can't breathe," according to the New York Times. Sutherland was declared dead soon after.
The incident drew comparisons to last year's death of George Floyd, an African-American who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes and whose death led to months of protests against racism and police brutality.
The terminated officials were Sgt. Lindsay Fickett, employed since March 2011, and Detention Deputy Brian Houle, employed since July 2016, the Charleston County sheriff said on Monday.
Sutherland was in jail because of an incident at a behavioral health centre on January 4 wherein he was accused of "a misdemeanor offence of simple assault on a nurse staff member," Sutherland family attorney Mark Peper told media.
The incident that eventually led to his death took place the next day at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Centre in North Charleston.