Army Sergeant with PTSD Dies in Custody, Mother Claims 'They Are Standing There Watching Him Die'
A video showed an inmate handcuffed and surrounded by cops in riot gear struggle to breathe.
“I cannot breathe! I need water,” he said.
The man in custody is a U.S. Army Sergeant and in a few hours from when the video was shot, he was dead. The official report stated that he died of "natural causes" but his family says it's yet another example of police misconduct caught on tape.
Sergeant James Brown's mother, Dinetta, says her son was a decorated veteran who served two tours in Iraq but returned home with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
She told INSIDE EDITION, “They are standing there watching him die.”
Two years ago, he was pulled over for a DWI in El Paso, Texas, and ordered to serve two days in the county jail. He had a five-year-old girl with his wife, Rachel.
Rachel said, “What can possibly happen? He's going to stare at a wall for two days and get out and be done with this."
But it didn't turn out that way.
A video showed him freaking out in his cell just 24 hours into his confinement. For some reason he covered the glass door with wet toilet paper. His family believes his PTSD triggered a panic attack.
Five officers in riot gear subdued him, pinning him to the floor as they shackled his hands and feet.
He told them over and over that he couldn't breathe.
In the video, he can be heard saying, “I can't breathe. Help me. I'm choking on my blood. I'm choking on my blood!”
They lifted him over their shoulders and hauled him off to the infirmary. They handcuffed him to a chair and put an anti-spitting mask over his face.
INSIDE EDITION showed the video to Dr. Roshini Raj, Associate Professor of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center In New York.
She said, “It shows he really starting to fail, he is not able to breathe well enough. Even his breath is becoming more shallow. Pretty much his body is starting to give out.”
Sergeant Brown complained that the mask was restricting his breathing. He said, “Dude, please take it off. Take it off. Take it off. Please take the mask off. I cannot breathe. Please.”
His mother told INSIDE EDITION, “I heard him saying, ‘Please, please.’ To me, he was begging for help. He was begging for his life.”
Ten minutes later, he was unresponsive, his breathing was reduced to gasps. 911 was notified and he was rushed to a hospital. He never regained consciousness.
According to the autopsy report, Sergeant Brown died from a "sickle cell crisis,” a rare blood disorder triggered by "strenuous physical activity while being subdued."
The Sheriff's Department is calling his death "an unfortunate tragedy,” and said, "A thorough review of the facts determined that his death was caused by a pre-existing medical condition."
The question now is, could more have been done to help the soldier?
His mother said, “These are the people he just fought for and they're treating him like this? He was begging, pleading with them to do something but they did absolutely nothing.”
The family of Sgt. Brown has filed a wrongful death suit.
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