Disturbing footage showing police using their Tasers on a man multiple times before he later died in custody has brought fresh attention to a May 2013 case in South Boston, Virginia.
Officers had reportedly responded to a noise complaint and found 46-year-old Linwood R. Lambert Jr. in a trashed motel room, hallucinating, at 5 am on May 4, 2013. They handcuffed him and took him to Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital, emphasizing that he was not under arrest. But when Lambert started kicking the windows of the police car, circumstances changed.
The video footage, which draws from police cruiser and hospital surveillance cameras and which was first obtained and released by MSNBC, shows Lambert escaping from the car and running toward the hospital doors while handcuffed. Three officers pursue Lambert and tase him until he falls to the ground. They instruct him to roll over, but then tase him again.
"Every time you get up, I'm going to pop you," says one of the officers.
"I just did cocaine," Lambert says. "Why are you all trying to kill me, man?"
The video shows Lambert being shackled and taken to the police car, where, while restrained inside, officers tase him again — a violation of department policy.
Altogether, MSNBC reports, Lambert was tased 20 times in half an hour. In 2011, a US Department of Justice report noted the risk of multiple tasings.
"Deaths associated with CED [Controlled Electrical Device] use often involve multiple Taser activations (more than one Taser at a time) or multiple five-second cycles from a single Taser," the report said.
By the time police reach the jail, Lambert seems unconscious and unresponsive. Footage from the police car shows police checking his pulse multiple times, before attempting CPR. An officer can be heard saying, "He did admit to being on cocaine."
An ambulance took Lambert back to the same hospital, where he was found dead on arrival at 6:06 am, roughly an hour after he was first arrested.
In April, Lambert's sister, Gwendolyn Smalls, filed a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against the officers, the police chief, the deputy chief, and the town of South Boston.
"We believe the police officers violated Mr. Lambert's constitutionally protected rights by depriving him of the medical attention he desperately needed," Messa and Associates, the firm representing Smalls, said in a statement.
In a court complaint, Smalls accuses the police department of failing to respond to requests for police files and conspiring to cover up the details of Lambert's death.
South Boston Police Chief James Binner filed a response to the complaint, denying most of Smalls's allegations.
"Defendants are aware that the use of Tasers in other jurisdictions has been alleged to have caused death; however, the deployment of Tasers when a subject has become violent, causing damage to property and placing the safety of persons at risk, as was the case with Linwood Lambert Jr., is an appropriate and necessary use of force alternative to more lethal and harmful options available to law enforcement officers," he said.
The parties met at a hearing in the Western Virginia District Court on Thursday.