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Four officers, one sergeant resign following probe into death of Harold Easter in North Carolina

Four North Carolina police officers and a sergeant have resigned after they were all cited for termination for the in-custody death of a black man earlier this year, officials say. 

On January 23 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers arrested Harold Easter, 41, on drug charges after he was found in possession of marijuana and cocaine. 

He ‘ingested and swallowed cocaine’ during the traffic stop and was later left unattended in an interview room for 20 minutes where he suffered periodic seizures.

When he was finally found in medical distress he was rushed to a hospital and died three days later.

Last week the five CMPD employees involved – Sgt. Nicolas Vincent, Officer Brentley Vinson, Officer Michael Benfield, Officer Michael Joseph and Officer Shon Sheffield – were ‘cited for termination’ following an internal investigation and by Tuesday had resigned.

Four North Carolina police officers and a sergeant have resigned this week after they were all cited for termination for the in-custody death of Harold Easter, 41, (above) in January

Harold Easter

Four North Carolina police officers and a sergeant have resigned  this week after they were all cited for termination for the in-custody death of Harold Easter, 41, (above) in January

‘The five sworn employees who were cited for termination following the internal investigation into the death of Harold Easter have resigned,’ a CMPD public information officer confirmed to WBTV.

On September 18 CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings announced the termination recommendations saying the officers had ‘intimate knowledge’ that Easter had ingested cocaine.

‘Had our officers followed our policy, Mr. Easter may be alive today,’ Jennings said. ‘And had our officers had more concern for the sanctity of Mr. Easter’s life, we may not have had such a tragic outcome with this.’ 

They had been on administrative leave with pay in the midst of the investigation.

Their resignations come just days before video of the incident will be released to the public on October 1. 

Video of Easter reportedly shows him placed in an interview room at 12.19pm, where he was checked on periodically. 

In the clip he falls to the ground and suffers periodic seizures around 1.06pm. He was discovered by the sergeant at 1.13pm and hospitalized. 

Despite being cited for termination, Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer B. Merriweather III determined last week that no charges would be filed against the five CMPD employees involved in Easter’s death. 

On January 23 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers arrested Harold Easter, 41, on drug charges after he was found in possession of marijuana and cocaine. He 'ingested and swallowed cocaine' during the traffic stop and was later left unattended in an interview room for 20 minutes when he needed medical attention. He suffered seizures, was hospitalized, and died three days later

On January 23 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers arrested Harold Easter, 41, on drug charges after he was found in possession of marijuana and cocaine. He ‘ingested and swallowed cocaine’ during the traffic stop and was later left unattended in an interview room for 20 minutes when he needed medical attention. He suffered seizures, was hospitalized, and died three days later

'The officers remarked several times that he ate cocaine…For a period of minutes he was calling out for help and just repeating, "I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die," family attorney Alex Heroy said

‘The officers remarked several times that he ate cocaine…For a period of minutes he was calling out for help and just repeating, “I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die,” family attorney Alex Heroy said

A 35-page report released last week said the state would have to prove the officers knew or should have known that Easter ingested cocaine and that their failure to get medical attention resulted in criminal negligence.

They’d also have to prove that the failure to obtain medication attention was the cause of his death.

‘There were three medical experts we consulted. None of those three could say with a degree of medical certainty that he wouldn’t have died,’ Merriweather said.

‘It’s because of the amount of cocaine and cocaine tablets in his system,’ he added. 

Easter’s family attorney Alex Heroy slammed the offices for ‘trying to escape accountability’ in resigning before an official Board hearing. 

‘The officers remarked several times that he ate cocaine…For a period of minutes he was calling out for help and just repeating, “I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die,” family Heroy said to WCNC.

The District Attorney’s Office condemned the officers in the case saying they could have taken different actions that could have prevented Easter’s death.

‘The video image of Mr. Easter slowly beginning to perish, unattended, for over 15 minutes has left an indelible mark upon each of us,’ Merriweather said.

Last week Easter's sister Andress Mackey spoke out following the DA decision to not press charges.  She said: 'I’m still upset. It doesn’t bring him back but at the same time, if he has been treated like a person with respect, we wouldn’t be here today. He’d still be with us'

Last week Easter’s sister Andress Mackey spoke out following the DA decision to not press charges.  She said: ‘I’m still upset. It doesn’t bring him back but at the same time, if he has been treated like a person with respect, we wouldn’t be here today. He’d still be with us’

‘We also acknowledge that a person certainly might reasonably—and justifiably—infer that different actions by the officers could have saved Mr. Easter’s life. That inference alone is insufficient to sustain a criminal prosecution, but it is wholly appropriate to deem what occurred on January 23, 2020 to be an abject failure of operating procedure and general standards of custodial care,’ he added.

Easter’s death sparked outrage in the state and led to changes within the CMPD including a new policy where officers must continuously observe any person while they’re in custody.

Last week Easter’s family held a press conference after the District Attorney’s decision saying they’re still mourning the loss of their loved one.

‘I miss him everyday. Every second, every minute, every hour of everyday. I’m still upset. It doesn’t bring him back but at the same time, if he has been treated like a person with respect, we wouldn’t be here today. He’d still be with us,’ Harold’s sister, Andrell Mackey said.

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