Policemen in Milwaukee have some questions to answer about a man who died while in their custody. The medical examiner has complicated the questions they have to answer further by classifying the man’s death as a homicide.
A dashcam shows 22 year old Derek Williams gasping for air in the police car after they arrested and handcuffed him. Williams was arrested for an attempted mugging. In the video, Williams can be seen gasping for air and telling the officers that he can’t breathe.
One of the officers laughs off Williams’ pleas saying he’s “playing games,” and then asking Williams, “What’s your last name?” Williams tells the cop he can’t breath again and the cop tells him, “You’re breathing just fine.”
Moments later, he falls forward and stops moving. Williams was pronounced dead, 45 minutes later, in spite of officers and paramedics’ efforts to revive him.
Initially, the medical examiner’s office ruled the death as a death from natural causes but then changed the ruling of the death to a homicide after reviewing the video and other evidence.
Speaking to the Journal Sentinel, forensic pathologist, Werner U. Spitz, said that he thinks the father of three suffered a sickle cell crisis and suffocated because police officers were rough with him. Williams is reported to have been trying to rob a couple when he was chased by police officers. He was caught and handcuffed. One of the officers is reported to have pushed his knee into Williams’ back while cuffing him which is what Spitz attributes the sickle cell crisis to, as well as Williams’ inability to breathe.
On Wednesday, a crowd of over a 100 people protested and marched through the city, in response to Williams’ death.
A protester named Montgomery Baker told the Journal Sentinel,
“The people that are directly and indirectly responsible for Derek’s death need to be taken to jail and tried in a court of law. Their job is to protect and serve and take care of the community and not add to the problem.”
Williams’ family is demanding a federal investigation.