Recorded on police body cam videos physically restraining a detainee begging for his life, five North Carolina detention guards and a nurse have been charged with involuntary manslaughter for causing the man’s death. Instead of providing medical assistance, the guards hogtied the inmate who lost consciousness and required CPR while the guards attempted to remove his handcuffs with bolt cutters.
On December 2, 2019, John Neville was being held at the Forsyth County Detention Center in Winston-Salem on a pending assault charge when he reportedly fell from the top bunk of his bed onto the concrete floor. Detention officers and a nurse found Neville disoriented and confused while explaining that he appeared to suffer a seizure.
Newly released body cam videos depict five detention officers escorting Neville to another jail cell, while he is restrained in a wheelchair with a spit guard mask placed over his face. After moving Neville from the wheelchair to the cell, the officers placed him on the floor in a hogtied position as he frantically begged for help and told the guards that he couldn’t breathe.
“You’re breathing, because you’re talking, and you’re yelling and you’re moving,” one of the deputies callously told Neville before he lost consciousness. “You need to stop. You need to relax. Quit resisting us.”
As the officers attempted to remove Neville’s handcuffs, the key broke off inside the lock. They repeatedly used a bolt cutter for several minutes before successfully cutting the chain on the handcuffs.
In one of the videos, the nurse waits several minutes before entering the cell and confirming that Neville has stopped breathing and no longer has a pulse. She performs CPR to resuscitate Neville.
Two days later, Neville passed away at the Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. According to the autopsy report, Neville died from a brain injury due to cardiac arrest, due to asphyxia during a prone restraint—which is being restrained in the facedown position.
Last month, detention officers Sarah Poole, Antonio Woodley, and Christopher Stamper along with Cpl. Edward Roussel, Sgt. Lavette Williams, and nurse Michelle Heughins were charged with involuntary manslaughter for their direct involvement in causing Neville’s death. Forsyth County Superior Court Judge R. Gregory Horne recently ordered the court to release the videos of the incident to the public.
“I apologize again for what took place on that day, apologize to you and your family,” Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough told Neville’s son Sean and his family’s lawyer, Michael Grace, during a press conference on Tuesday. “Your father has changed the way health care will be dispensed at the Forsyth County Detention Center as well as how it will be dispensed throughout this region.”
On Wednesday, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines issued the following statement: “We are living in challenging times and this is a difficult day for our city. The video of Mr. Neville’s death is painful to watch, and understandably, it is giving rise to strong emotions. Anyone who has seen the video can fully understand why the Neville family initially asked that the video remain private. And yet they have put the community’s need for transparency above their own need for privacy.
“Over the past weeks our citizens have come together to protest injustice and I support their right to protest peacefully. I agree that all the facts and information in this case must be made public. Thus far the process has worked. Charges have been filed and the video has been released.
“Today, I’m asking all our citizens to remain peaceful and resist the urge to do something destructive. Let us follow the example of the Neville family and put the good of the community before our own emotions. For justice to prevail we have to allow the judicial process to move forward.
“I am keeping the Neville family in my prayers and I ask everyone in the community to do the same.”
Neville’s family, represented by attorney Michael Grace, has filed a civil lawsuit against the county of Forsyth and Wellpath, the medical agency that employs the nurse, for failing to save Neville’s life and negligently causing his death.
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