Man dies while in police custody in Halifax County

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A man died while in police custody in Enfield (WTVD)

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the death of a man who died while in police custody in Halifax County over the weekend.

Enfield Police Department Chief Willie L. Tillery, Jr. has asked the SBI to investigate after 55-year-old Michael Tyrone Gallagher of Midlothian, Virginia died late Saturday night.

Authorities said Lt. Jerry Powell was called to the 100 block of Whitfield Street in Enfield around 11 p.m. about a breaking and entering in progress at a local florist.

Behind the now boarded up windows at Holley's Flower Shop on East Whitfield Street, there is shattered glass everywhere, the rock presumed to be the one used to break inside, blood splattered on the floor, and a shoebox of rolled coins, perhaps dropped by the suspect in the middle of what Enfield Police say was a Saturday night burglary attempt.

When Powell arrived, police said he confronted Gallagher, and then Powell, along with a witness, got in to an altercation with Gallagher.

During the confrontation, authorities said Powell's taser was used on Gallagher. Powell and the witness then handcuffed him.

Halifax County EMS was called to the scene to treat all three for injuries.

When EMS crews arrived, they found Gallagher unresponsive and immediately took him to the Halifax County Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.

The cause and manner of his death are undetermined at this time, according to police.

Powell and the witness were treated at the hospital for unknown injuries.

Nearby residents say they're outraged over the incident, after eyewitnesses describe Gallagher being beaten at the hands of police.

"They beat him like a dog... we have several witnesses that said the cops beat him and they shouldn't have done that", said resident Catherine Ingram.

Gallagher's friend, Matthew Taylor, says they worked in landscaping together in Virginia. Taylor says police have been less than transparent about what happened.

"(Gallagher's family) couldn't see the body and then they didn't know where the body was. (Police) wouldn't tell them what happened and when it happened," Taylor said.

Michael Gallagher was a white male. But black residents in Enfield say the case is about more than race. They describe a growing strain between the police force and the community.

"(Police) were beating (Gallagher), beating the mess out that white man", said resident Joyce Battle.

"I'm kinda angry cause (police) are doing stuff and getting away with it. And we can't do anything about it. It is going to be a protest against this", said Ingram.

Officials said an autopsy will be conducted on Gallagher.

Meanwhile, the SBI's investigation is on-going. Powell has since been placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation.

Enfield Police is withholding comment due to the state investigation.

Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact the SBI at (800) 334-3000.

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