Two sheriff’s deputies in South Carolina were fired on Monday over 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.
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.
Shortly after the sheriff fired the deputies, about 100 protesters gathered in downtown Charleston on Monday to demand that the two also be charged with murder, The State reported.
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 center on Jan. 4 wherein he was accused of “a misdemeanor offense 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 Center in North Charleston.