The family of a black prisoner who died in custody while suffering medical distress has called for a review of the investigation into his death after they said a disturbing video showed his final moments.
A video purporting to show his death was reportedly posted to social media earlier this month by a member of Mackey’s family. The family has argued that officers involved in the fatal incident should face “justice” for what they described as crimes against Mackey, who suffered from epilepsy, a seizure disorder.
The video shows multiple officers holding a prisoner down as he was restrained upright in a chair following a scuffle, a spit mask wrapped around his face. One officer has a grip on either side of the man’s head as he appears to be having difficulty breathing.
The prisoner’s legs begin to shake violently from either side of the chair, and officers begin to hold them down. It was not clear whether the officers were aware the prisoner may have been suffering from medical distress.
Luzerne County officials have not confirmed the video showed Mackey’s death. However, his daughter, Tatiyanee Mackey, told local news outlets she released the video in a statement demanding justice for her father, saying: "It should have to come to this, us putting out a video for people to see the truth. This is real pain; this is not a joke. This is real life."
Civil rights attorneys and activists alike have decried the video as “sickening”, with civil rights advocate Ben Crump writing in a tweet: “Staff covered his face with a spit mask, cuffed his hands behind his back, shackled his feet, and STILL tased him. By the time they realise he was dead, it was already too late.”
The Mackey family reached a $3 million settlement after filing a federal lawsuit over the fatal incident.
But they said they felt compelled to release the video after the Luzerne County district attorney cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing.
The family also rejected a medical examiner’s autopsy report that said Mackey died of natural causes, saying the video clearly showed he died at the hands of police.
"An accident? Natural causes? Natural causes? Really? Come on, that's no natural cause,” Mackey’s daughter told the ABC-affiliate Newswatch 16. “They let him sit in that chair and take his last breath, and they didn't care."
Luzerne County Manager David Pedri has defended the county’s actions in response to Mackey’s death in a statement, saying it has “taken a number of steps since June 2018, including implementation of a more thorough medical screening upon intake; increased training for corrections officers around detecting and responding to medical episodes, and enhanced reporting protocols.”