South Boston, VA — On May 4th, 2013, police responded to a call about a man acting strangely at a Super 8 Motel. Just one hour later, that man, who was unarmed and in shackles, would be dead.
On that fateful night, 46-year-old Linwood “Ray” Lambert met police at the door to his hotel room in apparent mental distress, claiming that he saw people buried in the ceiling.
Instead of arresting Lambert, police decided to take the delusional man to the hospital. Since Lambert was not suspected of committing a crime, he was only being transported by police for medical help. The officers cuffed Lambert’s hands for the ride, but assured him, “we’re not locking you up, we’re going to the ER.”
However, upon arriving at the hospital, things would quickly turn fatal.
When the cruiser arrived at the hospital, Lambert, in an obvious hallucinatory and mentally deranged state, kicked out the back window of the cop car and tried to run into the hospital.
Police immediately began tasering the handcuffed man.
One officer ordered Lambert to “stay down” while another, Officer Bratton, said, “Every time you get up, I’m going to pop you.”
Lambert can be heard then pleading with the officers, “I didn’t do nothing.” The officers demand that Lambert lie down, stay down, get on his belly, and roll over – while warning they will taser him again.
“I’m going to light you up again – roll over, roll over, turn over!” Bratton says.
Lambert remained on the ground, saying OK, but the officers continued to taser him repeatedly. Lambert was then placed in leg shackles.
After Lambert is in shackles and calm, the officers continue their assault. “I’m going to hit you again,” Bratton tells him.
Tired and out of breath Lambert says to the police, “I just did cocaine.” He is then placed under arrest for disorderly conduct.
Lambert pleads to the officers, “Why are you trying to kill me, man?,” and asks them to stop the tasing, saying, “don’t do it, please don’t do it, please officers.”
However, the officers would not listen and kept tasing him, even after he was placed in the back of the squad car and shackled.
In a just a few minutes, three cops would hit Lambert with their tasers a total 20 times, according to the device reports issued by Taser International.
For a total of 87 seconds, Lambert had 50,000 volts running through his body — a level capable of inflicting serious injury or death, according to federal guidelines. It is surprising that he did not die half way through this assault.
One hour after the first ride to the hospital, Lambert was pronounced dead.
“We got the phone call that he had died, while in police custody,” Lambert’s sister, Gwendolyn Smalls told MSNBC. “We were all shocked.”
She [Smalls] says police refused to provide basic information about what happened that night. She kept calling the police and hospital, asking for details, but says she was only told that her brother was repeatedly combative, and then he died at the hospital. Police did not provide her the videos, or information from them.
Smalls ultimately filed a civil suit against the police this summer, alleging excessive force, wrongful death, denial of medical care and other claims, which the police categorically deny. That $25 million suit led to a court order forcing police to give Smalls the videos from that night.
She watched them for the first time last month, at her father’s house. “It was horrible,” she said, “a nightmare.”
“I can’t say what I was thinking, it was awful,” Lamber’s father, Linwood Lambert Sr., recalled. “You wouldn’t do any human or any species like that. I don’t think anyone could hate someone that bad to inflict pain such as what they did,” he said. “I don’t see anything that he did in that tape,” he added, “that would provoke them to do what they did.”
Despite having only trace amounts of cocaine in his system, “less than 0.01 mg/L,” which is not typically enough to cause an overdose, the autopsy report claimed that Lambert, indeed, died from cocaine intoxication.
“Having a level of 5 mg/L or higher would be more consistent with death due to cocaine intoxication,” said Dr. Lewis Nelson, a medical toxicologist and emergency medicine specialist at NYU.
The family’s attorney, Tom Sweeny says this autopsy finding was a result of police not telling the medical examiner how many times they tasered Lambert.
“There’s a reference in the coroner’s report to tasing,” he said. “There’s no reference to the fact that Mr. Lambert was tasered multiple times, by multiple police officers at the same time while he was in the back of a police car, and subsequently died shortly after that,” he said.
According to MSNBC, Virginia State Police conducted an investigation of the incident. A State Police spokesperson, Corrine Geller, told MSNBC State Police “initiated the investigation at the request” of South Boston Police Chief James Binner, and it “turned its findings over” to two prosecutors “for final review and adjudication.”
The original prosecutor, Halifax County attorney Tracy Quackenbush Martin, has been investigating the case since 2013. “The investigation remains open,” she told MSNBC this week.
Two years have passed since Lambert’s death, and none of the officers involved in the tasering have faced a single charge.
According to Amnesty International, between 2001 and 2008, 351 people in the United States died from being shocked by police tasers. Electronic Villiage has documented another 283 taser-related deaths in the United States from 2009- October 2014. That means there have been at least 634 documented taser-related deaths in America since 2001, and there have definitely been more since the list was curated.
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