The death of a Texas man inside a jail lobby after a struggle with deputies was ruled a homicide on Monday.
Joseph Hutcheson, 48, died on Aug. 1 after he was pinned to the ground and handcuffed by police in the lobby of Dallas County's jail. The county medical examiner’s office determined that factors contributing to his death included cocaine and meth, compounded heart problems caused by high blood pressure, and stress to his body associated with the struggle and being restrained.
Police said Hutcheson went into the building yelling for help, behaving erratically, and claimed his wife was trying to kill him.
A 40-minute video, with no sound, of the incident shows three deputies, later four, pinning Hutcheson to the ground. At different times during the struggle, it appears as though one of them placed his knee on his neck.
Hutcheson seems unresponsive after deputies prop him up on his knees, about 10 minutes after he was taken down someone begins to administer chest compressions.
Scott Palmer, an attorney for Hutcheson’s family, said the medical examiner’s findings corroborates what the video shows, that deputies were responsible on some level for the man’s death.
"It is apparent from the ruling that Mr. Hutcheson died at the hands of another,” Palmer said in a statement. “We believe without the assault by the Sheriff’s deputies, Mr. Hutcheson would still be alive today."
Palmer told BuzzFeed News that an independent pathologist hired by the family to conduct a second autopsy found that Hutcheson’s neck organs were missing. He had no idea why the medical examiner would keep them, unless they were of particular interest.
The Dallas Morning News reported that hours before Hutcheson’s death, he went to Parkland Memorial Hospital. Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez said he checked into the hospital at 4:17 a.m. and left “against medical advice” at 9:48 a.m. Hutcheson then entered the jail lobby at 10:24 a.m., she said.
The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department declined to give additional details, citing the ongoing investigation.
Adolfo Flores is a national security correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He focuses on immigration.
Contact Adolfo Flores at email@example.com.
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