John Neville died from a brain injury he sustained while being restrained by corrections officers in Forsyth County jail. The Winston-Salem based Black Lives Matter group – along with local media – demanded surveillance footage from the prison of the incident, but Mr Neville’s family initially opposed the release of the footage.
“We apologise for any hurt that our support of the legal petition by several news outlets and publications for the release of this footage may have caused the Neville family or his loved ones,” the chapter wrote in a Facebook post Thursday. “We want to fully impart to them that we meant no harm in any way, and we wish to honour them and the dignity of John Neville.”
Days before a judgement on whether or not the court would release the footage, the family changed course and supported the effort to make the video public. Several members of the family had already seen the footage at that point.
“I’ve seen it and it is something that will always stick with me,” Mr Neville’s son, Sean, told Fox8 News. “As time has gone on, including the community more, seems to be the best way to make things happen quickly....We appreciate that his death matters, because most people don’t get that luxury.”
Natasha Martin, Mr Neville’s daughter, watched the video and said her father called out that he couldn’t breathe more than 20 times. She said the video also showed prison workers laughing and joking while her father struggled on the floor.
“One of the keys broke inside the handcuffs, and they said, ‘Oh that’s coming out of your paycheck,’” Ms Martin said. “They were laughing over my dad, while he’s in distress.”
Ms Martin claims that after her father fell unconscious and prison workers carried him out of his holding cell, other inmates are heard singing “Amazing Grace.” One inmate apparently calls out “yo, rest in peace John,” while another yells at the prison workers “you killed that man”.
“Like they’re singing Amazing Grace in the background. That to me was the most powerful thing. You equate that song to a funeral,” she said.
Sean Neville asked that those who watch the video do so with the understanding that Mr Neville was a person and a father, not just a story or a figurehead.
“With all due respect to the media, he’s a story. With all due respect to the protesters, he’s a cause. To me and my family, he’s a person. He’s our father,” he said. “We ask people, if they see it, regulate that anger. That anger’s going to build up, from a human standpoint, and use it to do something positive.”
Mr Neville died in December after suffering a brain injury at the hands of corrections officers who held him down in a way that cut off his ability to breathe. Five detention officers and a nurse at the prison have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with Mr Neville’s death.
Before his incarceration, Mr Neville had been arrested on a misdemeanour charge of assault on a female.