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Raleigh police release body camera video in arrest of man who died after tasing

As attendees say “we love you boo-boo” balloons are released during a vigil for Darryl Williams outside Supreme Sweepstakes in Raleigh, North Carolina on Jan. 19, 2023. Williams, 32, died after he was tased by Raleigh police officers. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer/TNS)

The city of Raleigh released body camera, dash camera and surveillance videos Friday showing the January arrest of a man who died in custody after police officers tased him three times.

Darryl “Tyree” Williams died after being tased with stun guns three times by two Raleigh police officers on Jan. 17. He was 32 years old.

Officers J.T. Thomas and C.D. Robinson were patrolling on Rock Quarry Road when they saw Williams in a car outside a sweepstakes parlor, according to a report that police issued after the fatal encounter.

In the videos, Thomas calls for backup, and Officer D.L. Aquino later arrives. Thomas approaches Williams’ car and finds two people.

The person in the passenger seat has an open container of alcohol, video shows, leading officers to ask both Williams and the passenger to get out of the car. The videos show Williams getting out of the car as an officer asks him multiple times to sit on a curb. He and the passenger repeatedly ask officers why they are being stopped.

While officers search the vehicle, Williams is asked to place his hand on top of the passenger side of the car. He complies, and an officers searches Williams’ pockets. The videos show Robinson finding and removing a folded dollar bill from Williams’ pants pocket containing what police have previously described as “a white powdery substance consistent with the appearance of cocaine.”

Police officer J.R. Scott arrives soon after.

Robinson asks Williams to put his hands behind his back after finding the dollar bill and immediately reaches for Williams’ right wrist. Williams moves his arms away and repeatedly says, “No. What’s going on?”

Williams stumbles out of Robinson’s reach away from the car and toward the front steps of a nearby business.

Four officers flank Williams and attempt to take him into custody, but he “continued to resist their efforts and was able to overpower and pull away from them,” the police report stated.

Officers warn Williams to “stop or you are going to get tased,” the videos show.

“Mr. Williams continued to actively resist the officers by pushing them and refusing to place his hands behind his back,” the report continued. “At this point, Officer Robinson deployed his Taser, temporarily stopping Mr. Williams and causing him to fall to the ground in front of one of the businesses in the area.”

Williams cries “No!” as he is tased for the first time.

During the exchange, Williams was pushed into garbage. Three officers pile around him, jostling glass containers and trash cans as they try to handcuff him.

The videos show Williams managing to break away and run. Officers deploy another taser as they chase him, but the device misses his body.

Williams stumbles and cries “No!” as officers bring him to the ground. They repeatedly shout at him to put his hands behind his back.

Although his hands are not behind his back, Williams is face down, elbows to the ground with officers physically restraining him.

Two officers on the video are seen on top of Williams, with tasers drawn.

“We’re not doing nothing,” Williams tells the officers.

Because he has not put his hands behind his back, officers tase Williams for a second time. He cries out. After the second time he is tased, Williams pleads with the officers.

“I have heart problems. Please … please. Please!” Williams says.

“Three, two, one,” an officer says simultaneously.

Williams moans and screams in pain as officers tase him a third time and then falls silent.

“Hey, is he still good?” one officer asks moments later.

They move Williams to his side.

“Is he breathing?” one of the officers asks. “I don’t feel a pulse.”

Several more officers arrive while the officers discuss Williams’ condition for several minutes and then begin CPR, with EMS on the way.

Around 2 a.m., Williams was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3 a.m.

Those watching the video had different opinions Friday as to whether officers used excessive force in detaining Williams.

Keith Taylor, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, watched the 12-minute compilation video at the request of The News & Observer.

Taylor, a former New York City Police Department detective and retired assistant commissioner for the New York City Department of Correction, said the officers did not appear to use excessive force .

“I was looking at the duty of care exhibited by the officers, how they were responsive at every step of the interaction,” Taylor said. “That duty of care means that they were using the force necessary but they were also responsive as to the condition of the individual and taking actions to address his condition as the interaction continued.

“They didn’t simply leave him alone; they were monitoring his breathing and his pulse,” he said.

It is difficult to watch, Taylor said.

“Whenever you see force being used, it is difficult to watch,” he said. “But when you look at it you have to look at, ‘Is excessive force being utilized? Is there inappropriate behavior behind exhibited by the officers toward the person they’re trying to get compliance from?’

“They did have to tase him a few times, but that was directly in response to his actions or inactions based on their lawful commands,” Taylor said.

Even as Williams told the officers he had heart problems, “he’s telling them one thing but he’s doing another,” Taylor said. “If you’re going to say you have a medical condition, you should comply so that it doesn’t require further use of force in order to gain compliance.”

Taylor said that, based on the video he watched, the officers appeared “solely focused on getting the handcuffs on him, so they were not interested in arbitrary or excessive use of force to gain compliance. They were just using the taser as opposed to a baton or pepper spray to try and gain compliance.”

After they realized Williams was unresponsive, Taylor said, the officers acted correctly in administering CPR until medics arrived.

Kerwin Pittman, a social justice advocate with Emancipate NC, saw things differently.

The group has previously spoken out on the case, calling pro-active policing racial profiling of marginalized communities and saying Williams was not bothering anyone the night he died.

“Darryl Williams should not be dead,” Pittman said Friday.

The white powder found inside the folded dollar bill, if it was cocaine, would have been a “trace amount,” he said.

Deploying tasers as Williams tried to run way also seems to violate the Raleigh Police Department’s own policy, Pittman said.

Once they got Williams on the ground, the officers’ use of force “struck me as extremely excessive,” Pittman continued. “Clearly this was a man who could not get up due to the number of officers on him.”

After he was down and officers continued to tell Williams to put his hands behind his back or he would be tased again, Pittman said, Williams didn’t have time to comply before he was tased.

Pittman said he texted Williams’ mother after she watched the video.

“She’s now heartbroken,” he said. “She literally heard her son say his last words.”


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