Oklahoma City police released body camera footage on Tuesday showing the May 2019 arrest of 42-year-old Derrick Elliot Scott, a Black man who died in custody after telling officers that he couldn’t breathe.
Oklahoma City police finally released a combined 87 minutes of footage from four officers, according to local TV station KOCO, after requests from media outlets and Oklahoma City’s Black Lives Matter group.
Police were responding to a 911 call about a man in a parking lot with a gun. When they approached the area and saw Scott, who matched the description, Scott ran, and officers tackled him to the ground. Scott can be heard on the video telling officers multiple times throughout the arrest that he couldn’t breathe.
At one point when Scott says “I can’t breathe,” an officer responds, “I don’t care.”
Another officer said, “You can breathe, man.”
Eventually, Scott began going in and out of consciousness, and officers tried to shake him awake. An ambulance was called and Scott was taken to the hospital, where he died a short time later. Scott’s right lung collapsed, and “physical restraint” could have been a factor in his death, according to a medical examiner report obtained by KOCO, as well as “methamphetamine, asthma, emphysema and heart disease.” (An email from VICE News requesting a copy of the report was not immediately returned.)
“I understand how George Floyd’s mother felt. I understand how the family felt,” Scott’s mother, Vickey Scott, told Oklahoma City TV station KFOR.
“You know, when they first tackled him on the foot chase and they looked at him and he said, ‘Don’t hurt me, just don’t hurt me, I can’t breathe,’ and as he was telling them he couldn’t breathe and then the police officer said, ‘I don’t care,’ I couldn’t watch anymore,” Scott said.
Three officers were temporarily placed on leave following Scott’s death. Despite the newly released video, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater argued that the cops were completely blameless in Scott’s death. Prater cleared the cops last year after an autopsy was released, telling the police chief that his officers “handled the call very well.”
“This guy runs from the police. He’s got a 90% occluded major artery in his heart,” Prater told the Associated Press. “I mean, he’s just a perfect candidate to die when you’ve got meth in your system and those kinds of physical ailments and then you fight with police. They [the officers] didn’t do anything wrong at all.”
The footage of the lead-up to Scott’s death and his repeated attempts to tell officers he couldn’t breathe echoes the cries of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 and Eric Garner in New York in 2014, two Black men who were killed by police officers.
In the wake of global and sustained protests following Floyd’s death, New York lawmakers are currently working on a package of police reforms that includes banning the use of chokeholds.
Cover: This image made from a May 2019 body camera video shows Oklahoma City police and paramedics moving Derrick Elliot Scott onto a stretcher after he was arrested and went in and out of consciousness. (Oklahoma City Police Department via AP)