A video and audio footage released by the Alabama police on Wednesday showed moments before a black man died in custody last week after police said they pepper sprayed him. However, the video does not show footage of Anthony Dwayne Ware being pepper sprayed or apprehended, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Authorities reportedly said that Ware died after a struggle with officers who were trying to arrest him on charges of attempting to elude police. Officers reportedly used pepper spray and handcuffed the 35-year-old but he began having trouble breathing, collapsed and later died. However, the video, which is the only available footage of that night with the Tuscaloosa Police Department, does not appear to show Ware's actual arrest or the use of spray.
"He ran into the woods and we took him into custody. He started saying he couldn't breathe and wouldn't really help us get him out of the woods, but he was still conscious and talking to us," a female officer is heard saying in the video. "We were doing our best to drag him out of the woods and then he coded."
The footage was captured from officers' body cameras and dash cameras. Six officers were involved in Ware's arrest, but not all were wearing body cameras. Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steven Anderson told a news conference Wednesday that all officers are unable to wear body cameras because of budget issues, according to reports. The department could only afford body cameras for about 60 of its 286 officers, but will arrange for more as funding becomes available, Anderson reportedly said.
Anderson said that officers initially thought Ware was faking a medical emergency after he was detained. Suspects in many cases tend to pretend to be injured or exaggerate an injury if officers use force against them, he added.
"Many times when we deal with individuals that we take into custody, especially if we've had to chase them or use any amount of force against them, whether it be OC spray or physical force to overcome their resistance, many times the suspects will pretend that they're injured and need medical attention," Anderson said. "They prefer to go to the hospital rather than the county jail."
An officer is heard in the audio asking for emergency responders to check on Ware, following which a different body camera captures officers performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on him for several minutes.
"Although they started out with the goal of taking him into custody, by the end of it that goal had shifted to saving his life," Anderson said, the AP reported, citing the Tuscaloosa News. "I hope people pay attention to that and look at the facts that we have and recognize that we had no malice toward Mr. Ware and we certainly meant him no harm."
An investigation into Ware's death is being conducted by supervisors and outside investigators.
“We are certainly going to call for a thorough investigation not only by the local police, but also by the … Alabama Bureau of Investigation, as well as possibly the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] if we think his civil rights were violated,” Benard Simelton, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Alabama branch, told Sputnik News on Wednesday.
"The use of non-lethal force is always a better option than lethal force, if it's used properly, now a lot of time officers will over use the non-lethal force,” Simelton explained. “But it should not be used to the extent that it takes a person's life and because it defeats the purpose of the non-lethal force."
Here is the audio and video footage released by the police department.