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Arkansas police release bodycam footage of fatal supermarket arrest as cops are cleared

Newly released body camera footage shows the moment a group of Arkansas police officers violently pinned a man to the floor and tased and punched him, moments before he died in police custody. 

Lionel Morris, 39, died on February 4, shortly after he was arrested for shoplifting at a Harps Food Store in Conway.

Police had been called to the supermarket after employees said they saw Morris and another suspect remove a drone from its packaging.

When officers arrived at the scene to confront them, Morris took off running and a police chase ensued around the store. 

Officers quickly caught up to Morris near the produce section where they tackled him and tased him before placing him in handcuffs.  

Footage of the altercation, released by Arkansas State Police on Wednesday, shows police had struggled with Morris for more than six minutes.   

At least four officers were seen forcefully holding Morris’s head and torso down with their hands and feet as they ordered him to put his hands behind his back. 

According to a police report obtained by local news station KATV, one officer admitted to punching Morris two to four times ‘in an attempt to gain compliance.’ 

He is heard crying out in pain and repeatedly telling cops that he can’t breathe as they press him against the floor before he eventually loses consciousness.

‘Oh my God, oh my God! Please help me, please,’ Morris, who is bleeding from his face, screams. 

‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe!’ he says, to which at one point an officer responds: ‘If you can talk, you can breathe. Chill out.’   

After cops finally subdue Morris, he is seen lying on the ground, disoriented before he begins vomiting, prompting officers to turn him on his side. 

‘All this over a drone,’ one officer is later heard saying in the background. 

Paramedics later arrived to find Morris ‘pulseless and unresponsive’, THV 11 reported. He was pronounced dead on his way to the hospital. 

A medical examiner later determined Morris died of methamphetamine intoxication with exertion, struggle, restraint and conducted electrical weapon deployment.  

Video of the incident was released on the same day state authorities cleared the officers involved of criminal 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,’ Chief William Tapley said in a recorded statement on Wednesday. 

‘The level of drugs Mr Morris had in his system and the strain he exerted while struggling with police ultimately contributed to his death,’ he added.   

Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry, however, has since called for the body camera footage of eight officers to be released and ordered some to be placed on paid leave while they conduct an internal review. 

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