Crime - Sacto 911

‘I feel like I’m having a heart attack,’ man in Sacramento police custody said before dying

Bodycam video shows events leading to Brandon Smith’s death in Sacramento police custody

Body cam video released by the Sacramento Police Department on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 shows the incident that led to the death of Brandon Smith in police custody on June 6. Smith was being transported to the main jail for booking.
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Body cam video released by the Sacramento Police Department on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 shows the incident that led to the death of Brandon Smith in police custody on June 6. Smith was being transported to the main jail for booking.

A man who would later die in Sacramento police custody told state and local law enforcement officers he felt like he was having a heart attack in video released by the Sacramento Police Department.

Minutes later during the June 6 encounter, the man, Brandon Smith, died of unknown causes inside a police transport vehicle.

Police on Wednesday released body camera footage and audio related to the fatal incident as part of a city policy mandating videos in critical incidents such as deaths in custody be made public within 30 days of the occurrence.

In a 24-minute body camera video, Smith can be seen laying face down on the floor of the lobby of the Volunteers of America Detoxification Center at 700 N. 5th Street when the Sacramento officer first comes on the scene.

As the officer approaches Smith, Smith can be heard saying, "I'm good, I'm good," on the video.

The Sacramento police officer was responding to a request from two California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation parole officers who had detained and handcuffed Smith prior to the arrival of the officer.

Corrections spokeswoman Vicky Waters said Smith was taken into custody due to a parole violation for "admitted use of illegal drugs."

Sacramento police spokesman Sgt. Vance Chandler confirmed the state parole officers asked the Sacramento police officer to transport Smith to the Sacramento County main jail on charges of public intoxication and a parole violation.

Smith had been released from San Quentin State Prison in September after serving just under two years for assault charges.

In the video, the Sacramento officer helps Smith onto his feet and walks him to a police truck designed to transport inebriated subjects.

On the way, Smith screamed, grunted and said, "I'm f----- up. I feel like I'm having a heart attack. Oh my god."

The officer did not respond to Smith.

A female can be heard saying "Alright, climb your ass up in there," as a male officer warns Smith "watch your head… low ceiling," as he is hoisted into the vehicle.

Smith appears to repeatedly say the word "No," while complying.

But he falls while entering the vehicle, his body loudly hitting the metal floor. Officers left Smith on the floor and closed the doors.

Chandler said police do not think Smith hit his head while falling. A police department news release said the Sacramento County coroner's office had concluded its autopsy and found "there was no trauma found that would have led to the subject’s death."

Chandler said that included head trauma.

Kimberly Gin, the Sacramento County Coroner, said that Smith's autopsy was completed last week. However, the pathologist is awaiting other test results, including a toxicology report, before announcing a cause of death, she said.

Smith continued to grunt as the vehicle door closed.

A person off camera, identified by the department as a civilian mental health clinician riding with the officer, can be heard twice asking the officer if Smith is OK.

Both times, the driver replied that he thought Smith was OK.

Chandler said the vehicle did not have seat belts in part because they present a suicide risk by hanging for some subjects. Chandler said as the vehicle approached the jail entrance in downtown Sacramento, the officer monitoring Smith on a video camera noticed that he appeared to stop moving, police said.

The officer parked in the jail entry and checked Smith and found him face down and unresponsive, the video showed.

"As he got close the the jail, he basically noticed a change in (Smith's) movement," said Chandler.

The officer called for emergency aid and administered CPR along with one of the parole agents until the fire department arrived and took over medical care, police said. Smith was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The tapes were released on the same day his family held a news conference with Black Lives Matter at Sacramento City Hall pleading for transparency in the case. The family could not be reached immediately for comment on the video.

"I want justice for my child," said Smith's mother, Yolanda Ford, at the morning press conference. She was flanked by the more than 35 supporters. "I believe they're covering up something, and I'm very angry."

“When Sac P.D. came to pick him up, he was already injured and in pain. They didn’t do anything to give him any type of medical attention.,” she said. “They could have made sure he stayed alive by getting him medical help. They’re complicit in this … they’re complicit in his death.”

Jordan Cutler-Tietjen: 916-321-1394

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