Family of man who died in RPD custody wants immediate police reform

Wednesday, January 25, 2023 4:48AM
Family of man who died in RPD custody wants immediate police reform
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Organizers of the news conference say Darryl Williams' family deserves answers surrounding his death.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Representatives for the family of a man who died in Raleigh police custody spoke at a news conference Tuesday morning.

This comes one day after Raleigh Police Department released its 5-day report on the incident.

Organizers of the news conference said Darryl Williams' family deserves answers.

Social justice activist Kerwin Pittman spoke for the family who wants to know why Williams was tased while running away, what side of the body he was first stunned on, and for how long each shock from the stun gun hits lasted.

"What side of the body did it make contact with and where on his side? Because these are important factors," Pittman said.

According to the report, Williams resisted arrest, and officers used a stun gun on Williams three times outside of the Supreme Sweepstakes internet café on Rock Quarry Road near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Williams was suspected of possession of a controlled substance and tried to run from police officers, who were patrolling the area because of increased emergency calls in the area.

After Williams had already been shocked with a stun gun, Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson said that two officers used 'drive stun mode' on Williams twice within 50 seconds of each other. Drive stun mode is when the stun gun is placed on someone's body and a powerful shock is deployed.

His mother told ABC11 last week that Williams did have underlying health issues.

"It ran in the family, his father and his uncle had heart problems. He's had some heart problems in the past, but nothing really serious," Sony Williams said.

The report said that minutes after the back-to-back drive stun mode stun gun hits, Williams was unresponsive, not breathing and without a pulse.

VIDEO: Surveillance from night Darryl Williams died in police custody

First responders used CPR and rushed him to a hospital where he later died.

Williams family spokesperson Davelle Madden said relatives are starting to make funeral arrangements but are still waiting on a death certificate to learn how exactly Williams died before they finalize plans.

"A piece of our hearts has been taken from us," Madden said. "We just want answers. We want answers as to why this happened to Darrell ... not to say the answers will completely heal her (Williams' mother's) heart, but it will give her a little bit of resolve, a little bit of peace to be able to sleep at night because she has not been able to do that."

The six officers involved in the arrest are on administrative duty. The State Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the case. RPD is running a parallel investigation to make sure policies and procedures were followed.

Many questions, a former police chief says

Since Williams' death, there have been many questions about the way RPD handled the encounter.

ABC11 spoke to Chet Epperson, who has nearly 40 years of law enforcement and 10 of those years were as police chief in Rockford, Illinois. He's now a court-appointed monitor for two police consent decrees. Epperson also had questions about this encounter.

"What's the crime that was committed? What's the threat to the officer? And is the person actively resisting arrest? Or is a person just trying to get away from the officer? So when the courts look at the reasonableness of the officer, they call it the objectable reasonableness test. They look at the totality of the circumstances. What's the crime? What's the threat? And what was the person trying to do," Epperson said.

Raleigh Police officers tased Williams three times. Two of those instances were in drive stun mode which hit Williams directly to the skin. He was hit on the side and back. In Raleigh PD's five-day report, it was stated Williams can be heard on body camera shouting, "I have heart problems." "If someone says that I have a heart problem, or someone says I can't breathe, those are two important elements that have to be immediately assessed by an officer who is using force. Because if someone does have a heart problem, the last thing you want to do is tase someone," Epperson added.

There are also a lot of questions about why officers approached Williams's vehicle in the first place. RPD said it was a part of their proactive patrol. The area was also identified as a high-crime area.

Epperson said this type of patrol is not uncommon.

"If they are going to justify that as proactive policing, then it has to be just a little more," he said. "It has to be, did we have repeat calls for service in this particular area? Do we have complaints of drug selling or activity or drug usage? Do we have alcohol problems are loud noise, I don't know all of those but those are the things that the chief of police in the investigation should be looking at."