Saturday, September 29, 2012

Man dies in back of Milwaukee police car

Derek Williams holding his daughter.
Derek Williams holding his daughter.
Picture from
Milwaukee police officers arrested a man named Derek Williams back in July 2011 and during the arrest Mr. Williams was in obvious need for medical attention and even asked for an ambulance but officers told him to stop faking. Later Mr. Williams suffocated in the back of the police car and died. There is now video of this incident. Make sure to read the entire article, via the link below.
The Milwaukee County medical examiner's office has revised its ruling on the death of Derek Williams, who died in Milwaukee police custody in July 2011, from natural to homicide, according to the district attorney's office.

The decision came after the Journal Sentinel alerted an assistant medical examiner to newly released records - including a video of a suffocating Williams pleading for help from the back of a squad car - and also made him aware of a national expert who said Williams, 22, did not die naturally of sickle cell crisis.

In making his initial determination of natural death more than a year ago, Assistant Medical Examiner Christopher Poulos did not review all of the police reports or a squad video recently obtained by the newspaper. The video shows a handcuffed Williams, his eyes rolled back, gasping for breath and begging for help in the back seat of a Milwaukee police car as officers ignore his pleas. The police reports include key details about Williams' arrest that the medical examiner didn't know.

As a result of the new ruling, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm is reopening his investigation into whether criminal charges are warranted against any of the officers involved.


In the video, which the paper initially requested last November, Williams struggles to breathe for seven minutes, 45 seconds, then slumps over, unconscious.

An officer then checks his pulse, props him up in the seat and walks to a nearby supervisor's car. Finding no one there, the officer returns and starts CPR as a different officer calls for medical assistance. Police and paramedics continue CPR for more than 45 minutes before Williams is declared dead.

Along with Chisholm, Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission Executive Director Michael Tobin and internal affairs Lt. Alfonso Morales viewed the video months ago and determined officers had done nothing wrong, despite department rules requiring police to call for help immediately "if medical treatment becomes necessary."


Poulos re-examined Williams' case after the Journal Sentinel informed him that Werner U. Spitz, a forensic pathologist and one of the nation's leading experts on death investigation, believed the death was a homicide.

Spitz reviewed the case at the newspaper's request . Poulos said in March that he used Spitz's work on sickle cell crisis as a resource in determining how Williams died.

"Is this a natural death? No. This is not a natural death," Spitz told the Journal Sentinel.

Spitz said that while sickle cell crisis likely occurred, it was caused by an officer applying pressure to Williams' back - and perhaps his neck - while he was facedown on the ground.

"This officer didn't have the intention of killing him, but that doesn't mean this kind of restraint should be performed," Spitz said.


Williams, his hands cuffed behind him, repeatedly told officers he couldn't breathe for at least 15 minutes between the time of his arrest and his death, according to records. He first made the complaint as he lay facedown, Ticcioni pressing a knee across his back, O'Day's report says.

"As soon as he released pressure, Williams began squirming, as if trying to break free, and reached around his right side to his right waistband (while still in handcuffs)," according to the report. Ticcioni worried that Williams was trying to grab a gun and "reapplied pressure with his right knee to prevent any further movement from the suspect," the report says.

Officers then searched Williams. No gun was found.

They got him to his feet, and "Williams immediately went limp," the report says. Ticcioni "laid him on the ground on his back and observed that he was breathing hard."

"He felt Williams was playing games and directed him to stop messing around," the report says.

A few minutes later, as officers Ticcioni and Coe were helping Williams walk toward the car, Coe left Williams' side to move a "for sale" sign that was blocking the sidewalk. When he did, Williams "pulled forward and fell face forward into the grass," the report says.

Ticcioni believed Williams was dragging his feet to make it difficult for the officers to get him to the waiting squad car, the report says.

Once locked in the back seat, Williams continued to say he could not breathe and asked officers to call him an ambulance, according to the squad video and a summary of the internal investigation. Officers Jeffrey Cline and Jason Bleichwehl, who can be heard talking on the recording, told internal investigators they did not hear Williams ask for an ambulance, the summary says.

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