Within hours of his phone call to 911 outside a mini market, Sterling Higgins died after video showed him violently holding him to the floor of the Obion County jail in Tennessee’s Union City.
ONE video surveillance camera since that morning, 15 months ago, he shows a correctional officer grabbing Higgins’ neck and head for almost six minutes, and part of that time the officer arrests him with one foot on him. Higgins’ weak body was then dragged into a holding chair and transported to a cell.
The video, which was filed in an unjustified death lawsuit filed in a federal district court in Tennessee, focuses on a claim that another black man died unnecessarily in custody due to a misdemeanor. All defendants have denied the allegations in legal statements.
These videos were never shown to a major jury that, last October, refused to accuse any of the officers involved, as first reported from WSPD, in Paducah, Kentucky. Attorney General for the 27th District Tommy Thomas told CNN he did not see the need to show the judges the video because he had already decided not to pursue criminal charges against the officers.
He said that while he did not believe that the police had handled the situation properly, “this is far from being responsible for the murder”.
Edwin Budge, a Seattle-based lawyer representing Higgins’ estate, said the videos were critical evidence and that the grand jury “should have been provided with these facts; and it is now our job as political lawyers to” we bring these facts to light. “
Higgins’ death raises questions not only about the events of that night and the use of force by officers, but also about police training and practices on how to handle people who behave strangely or who seem to have mental distress.