New footage from an Arkansas arrest in February has been released, and it has the potential to spark another wave of international protests, as the man in custody can be heard telling officers “I can’t breathe,” as an officer held his knee to the man’s neck, painfully mirroring the death of George Floyd back in May.
In the video, 39-year-old Lionel Morris is seen being pinned to the floor by police inside of a store in Conway, Arkansas. The ordeal began when employees called police after reportedly witnessing Morris, and another person remove a drone from its packaging, supposedly with an intent to steal it. When authorities arrived, Morris ran from them before being tackled and tased. Local ABC affiliate KATV reports that Morris’ girlfriend, Brandi Arnold was the other suspect.
“Oh my God, oh my God! Please help me, please,” Morris pleaded in the clip as he bled from his face. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe!” One of the officers harshly responded by telling the victim, “If you can talk, you can breathe. Chill out.” During the incident, Morris was punched twice by one officer who claims they assaulted the man to get him to cooperate. “I’ll breaking your fucking wrist,” another officer said while handcuffing Morris.
The sickening footage shows that at least four officers violently restrained him even after he was placed in handcuffs, though eight officers in total were involved. Morris struggled for over six minutes. Once subdued by police, Morris is seen vomiting as officers turned him on his side. Another officer is heard saying, “All this over a drone.” When medical personnel arrived at the scene shortly after, they discovered Morris “pulseless and unresponsive.” He was pronounced dead on the way to a local hospital. Prosecutors have since cleared all officers involved.
“After a thorough review, the prosecutor determined there was no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing by the Conway Police Department or the Conway police officers involved in this unfortunate incident,” said Chief William Tapley. “The level of drugs Mr Morris had in his system and the strain he exerted while struggling with police ultimately contributed to his death.”
According to the medical examiner, the cause of death was ruled to be methamphetamine intoxication with exertion, struggle, restraint, and conducted electrical weapon deployment.
Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry has asked that all eight officers be placed on paid leave during an internal review of Morris’s death. He also supported the release of the bodycam footage.