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Man who died after police used Taser had warned of heart issue, video shows

Police officers in Raleigh, N.C., repeatedly used a Taser on 32-year-old Darryl “Tyree” Williams during an arrest on Jan. 17, 2023. Williams died shortly after. (Video: Raleigh Police Department)
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A North Carolina man who died about an hour after police repeatedly used a Taser on him had told officers that he had heart problems before he lost consciousness, according to footage of police surveillance and body cameras.

Darryl Tyree Williams, 32, died on Jan. 17, shortly after he fled an arrest for alleged drug possession and was stunned at least three times by officers with the Raleigh Police Department. Six officers have been placed on administrative leave amid an internal investigation and a separate inquiry from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

Police on Friday night released a roughly 12-minute edited compilation of footage, which included text from authorities describing the fatal incident but not a cause of death. The edited footage of body cameras, dashboard cameras and surveillance video was released to the public more than three weeks after the death of Williams, who was Black, and two days after a judge authorized its release. Williams’s family viewed the footage before it was publicly released, according to police.

The release of the footage caused Williams’s family and activists to demand accountability for a death they say was caused by racial profiling and violent use of force at a time when there has been several high-profile police killings of Black men to start the year.

After Raleigh officers had used a Taser on Williams during the arrest, the man is heard telling police that he was concerned about what the repeated use of the Taser could mean for his heart, according to video.

“I’ve got heart problems,” Williams told officers. “Please! Please!”

Despite the repeated pleas from Williams, who was not armed, officers used a Taser for a third time moments later, causing him to again shriek in pain, video shows. About a minute later, the video shows that he appears to lose consciousness. When police and EMS personnel failed to resuscitate the unresponsive man after he showed no signs of a pulse, Williams was transported to a hospital, where he died about an hour later, according to authorities.

A preliminary report of the incident released by police on Jan. 23 explained how Raleigh officers were conducting “proactive patrols” of areas that authorities say have “a history of repeat calls for service for drugs, weapons, and other criminal violations.” But Sonya Williams, the man’s mother, told The Washington Post that Raleigh police racially profiled her son and “didn’t respect him at all as a human being.”

“That was my baby and he did not deserve to die that way,” she said.

Kerwin Pittman, a Raleigh activist working with Williams’s family, echoed the sentiment to The Post: “For law enforcement to continue to Tase him after he clearly states that he has heart problems is extremely egregious.”

Julia Milstead, a spokesperson for the City of Raleigh and the police department, declined to comment to The Post. Angie Grube, a spokesperson with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, told The Post that the investigation is ongoing and offered no further comment.

The public release of video capturing Williams’s fatal encounter with law enforcement came two weeks after Memphis police released footage showing officers beating Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, as he screamed repeatedly for his mother on Jan. 7. At least five former Memphis officers, all of whom are Black, face second-degree murder and other charges related to Nichols, who died Jan. 10. A sixth officer, who is White, was fired earlier this month, and prosecutors said they are considering charges against him.

Memphis officer texted a photo of bloodied Tyre Nichols, records show

The Raleigh incident is also similar to the recent death of 31-year-old Keenan Anderson, a cousin of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Anderson died hours after Los Angeles police used a Taser on him six times in 42 seconds and restrained him in the middle of the street following a traffic accident on Jan. 3. Anderson died of cardiac arrest about 4½ hours after the use of force.

BLM co-founder’s cousin dies after police repeatedly use Taser, video shows

In Raleigh, at about 2 a.m. on Jan. 17, police were conducting “proactive patrols” in a parking lot more than a mile outside of downtown, according to police. When officers approached Williams as he sat in the driver’s seat of his car, they told him that they were “checking on people,” according to video. Police say they saw marijuana and an open container of alcohol in the car and asked Williams and an unidentified passenger to step out of the vehicle.

“We’re not doing nothing,” Williams said, according to video.

While searching Williams’s vehicle, police say they found a folded dollar bill that appeared to contain “a white powdery substance.” Upon seeing this, police proceeded to arrest Williams, even though an officer did not tell him why, video shows. Pittman argued to The Post that police found a trace amount of white substance and that video shows that officers “couldn’t see what it was.”

When police ordered Williams to put his hands behind his back and to get on the ground, he resisted authorities’ efforts to detain him. As he appears to flee, an officer is heard on video saying, “Stop or you’ll get Tased.” That’s when an officer deployed a Taser and Williams appears to fall to the ground, video shows. Police said in the preliminary report that Williams “lost his balance and fell forward to the ground.”

After Williams was struck with the Taser in “drive stun” mode, which is when the device is placed directly against a person’s body and used similar to a stun gun, an officer is heard saying to him that he would get stunned again if he didn’t stay put.

Moments later, Williams mentions his heart problems to police. His mother told The Post that heart problems run in the family and that her son told her of previous chest pains. She said his father, also named Darryl, died of heart problems.

Soon after police used a Taser despite the warning about his heart, the handcuffed man appeared to lose consciousness.

“Is he still good?” an officer is heard asking his colleague, according to video.

“Is he breathing?” another officer says. “I don’t feel a pulse.”

An officer then addresses the unresponsive Williams: “Hey, c’mon, wake up.”

Memphis police culture comes under scrutiny after Nichols beating

Police said in the preliminary report that officers administered CPR and checked his pulse and breathing. After EMS personnel arrived, Williams was transferred to a hospital, police said. He was pronounced dead at 3:01 a.m.

While Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson sought the release of the video footage from a Wake County Superior Court judge, as is required by state law, family members and advocates told The Post that the edited footage left out how Williams allegedly was lying handcuffed on the ground for roughly 20 minutes before EMS personnel arrived.

“He was already dead by then,” Sonya Williams, 57, told The Post, urging police to release all of the footage. It’s unclear whether police will release the entirety of the footage.

Williams’s mother remembered him as “a loving person who got along with everybody” and enjoyed his job as an assistant manager at Sonic. The man she referred to as “Boo Boo” loved to travel and planned on a trip to Hawaii for his 33rd birthday on May 26, she said.

Sonya Williams, of Wendell, N.C., suggested to The Post that legal action was possible against police in the coming weeks. While she acknowledged she received some closure in watching the footage, she’s still figuring out what her life is going to look like without her firstborn.

“They took something that was very special to me,” she said.