A SUSPECTED shoplifter was pinned down by several cops and gasped “I can’t breathe” moments before he died, bodycam footage shows.
Police were called to the Conway, Arkansas supermarket after Lionel Morris, 39, allegedly removed a drone from its packaging, THV11 reported.
Newly released bodycam video of the February 4 incident shows when Morris tried to run away, he was tackled, punched several times, and tased.
In the ensuing six-minute struggle, a handcuffed Morris repeatedly said “I can’t breathe” as at least four cops used hands and feet to hold him down.
“Oh my God, oh my God! Please help me, please,” he cried out, chillingly similar to the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
“If you can talk, you can breathe. Chill out,” one officer responded.
“All this over a drone,” one of the cops was later heard saying.
The disturbing video showed Morris bleeding from the face and vomiting, prompting the officers to turn him on his side.
Paramedics arrived and declared Morris “pulseless and unresponsive”.
He was pronounced dead on the way to hospital.
The medical examiner determined the cause of death as “methamphetamine intoxication with a combination of exertion, struggle, restraint and conducted electrical weapon deployment.”
On Wednesday the officers involved were cleared of any wrongdoing.
“After a thorough review, the prosecutor determined there was no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing by the Conway Police Department or the Conway police officers involved in this unfortunate incident,” Conway Police Chief William Tapley said in a recorded statement.
“The level of drugs Mr. Morris had in his system and the strain he exerted while struggling with police ultimately contributed to his death.”
Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry said he is “concerned” about the incident, and has asked for some of the officers to be placed on paid leave while an internal investigation is carried out, and for the bodycam footage of all officers involved to be released.
Chief Tapley said that while the officers “did not cause Mr. Morris’ death,” he admitted the Conway Police Department “can do better.”
“Use of force in any situation is uncomfortable and should be analyzed to determine if things could be reviewed upon,” he said.
“In reviewing this incident, I recognize that there are things as a police department that we can do better. And these are things that we will do better.”
Protests against police brutality and racism have taken place across the country since the May death of George Floyd, a black man, in Minneapolis.