Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Man Dies in Jail After Being Pepper Sprayed

In a case that has been circulating online, an African-American man, Michael Sabbie, died in a jail after being pepper sprayed and denied proper medical treatment. In the video below, he can be heard repeating "I can't breathe." What's notable about this case is that his death has been ruled to be due to "natural causes," despite the fact that the video shows he was brutalized and denied medical treatment. His obesity likely contributed to his death, but that still does not justify the use of force and the denial of emergency aid given the very clear signs of a medical emergency.

This case also highlights the tendency of authorities to check "death by natural causes" on a piece of paper -- it's the easy route, and surely limits liability for those involved. It also highlights that the effects of pepper spray are far from being fully understood, even by the scientific community. This weapon needs to be thoroughly studied if it is going to be applied by law enforcement and prison staff on a regular basis.

Here is a Huffington Post article on this tragedy.