Video shows black suspect who died in police custody shouted 'I can't breathe' during prior arrest

Joe Gamp
Contributor, Yahoo News UK

The family of a black man who died in police custody after he was arrested have lodged a formal complaint against police after footage emerged of him being restrained.

A video, filmed on 17 June last year, shows Simeon Francis, 35, accusing officers of “being racist” as they restrain him on the ground.

While pinned down by three officers, Francis can be heard shouting "I can't breathe”, before saying “You’ve got my throat”.

One officer then appears to press his knee into Mr Francis' back as an onlooker asks: “Do you really need that many officers on him?”

The family of Simeon Francis, 35, who died in custody after he was arrested have lodged a formal complaint against police. (SWNS)

But Francis died at Torquay police station on 21 May, following a second arrest in Exeter during the early hours of the day before - ten months after he was first arrested.

He was found unresponsive in a custody suite just hours after he was arrested.

It is understood that the second incident took place in Exeter in Devon.

Devon and Cornwall Police have referred the video to the the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), who are already investigating his death.

Bishop Dr. Desmond Jaddoo, a spokesman for Francis’ family, said: “I have written to Shaun Sawyer, the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, lodging a formal complaint of racial discrimination, use of excessive force and intimidation.”

He further confirmed that the video has also been sent to the Chief Constable with a request that the matter be referred to the IOPC.

Jaddoo added: “This video raises concerns of the actual treatment of Mr Francis by Devon and Cornwall Police. It has caused his family further and extreme distress during this difficult time”.

Francis, originally from Birmingham, moved to Torquay in Devon 16 years ago and was father to a 10-year-old child.

In a statement, his siblings said: "The news of the death of another black man whilst in police custody raises again the concerns regarding the dis-proportionality of black people dying in custody.

"No matter what Simeon’s past was, he was our brother and well-loved. We want answers as to why he died in these circumstances. We are devastated at the news of his death and now seek justice for him.”

The Independent Office for Police Conduct has launched an investigation into Francis' death. (SWNS)

An inquest was opened and adjourned by the coroner in Plymouth on Friday, 5 June.

Devon and Cornwall police said: "The video of Simeon Francis being arrested relates to a recall to prison for Mr Francis in July 2019.

"The force has received a complaint in respect of the video on 17 June 2020. The complaint will now be assessed and is subject to a voluntary referral to the IOPC. The force has received no complaint in relation to the arrest prior to this point.

"The independent IOPC investigation relating to the death of Simeon Francis in police custody on 20 May 2020 remains ongoing and Devon and Cornwall police continue to co-operate fully with that investigation."

No officers have been disciplined over either the 2019 arrest or Francis's death.