Video Released of NC Inmate Telling Officers ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Before Dying

By Lauren Frederick

August 11, 2020

Warning: Graphic Content Below

Body cam footage has been released, after a judge’s authorization, showing officers in a North Carolina jail holding down a Black inmate saying he couldn’t breathe, later passing out and dying two days later in the hospital.

The December 2019 video shows a group of Forsyth County Detention Center officers crowded around 56-year-old John Neville while he repeatedly told them, “I can’t breathe."

Of the two videos released, one shows a special response team approaching Neville as he was on the floor having a medical episode, found by his cellmate. He had vomit on his clothes and blood around his mouth after falling from the top of the bunk bed.

The nurse can be heard saying, “It looks like you had a seizure.” With no response from Neville when asked to confirm his name, officers continue to restrain him placing a spit hood over his head, pushing him in a wheelchair while handcuffed. He is then transferred to another cell where he is placed on a mat and held in a facedown position with his arms in handcuffs.

Neville can be heard pleading to officers more than 20 times, “Please, please, I can’t breathe, help me, help me, please.” Instead, he is continued to be restrained by officers who pull his legs behind him.

“You’re breathing ’cause you’re talking, you’re yelling, and you’re moving. You need to stop. You need to relax, quit resisting us,” an officer says while trying to remove Neville’s handcuffs, but struggles due to the key breaking in the lock.

They move to using a bolt cutter to remove the handcuffs, and someone can be heard on camera saying to release Neville’s legs “so he can breathe.”

With Neville in a prone position, officers are heard exchanging jokes about the damaged handcuffs.

After a long period of silence, an officer goes to check in on the inmate, but he’s unresponsive.

“John, you all right, buddy? I promise we’re going to be done in a few minutes all right?” the officer says. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

When the cuffs are taken off, the officers and nurse seem unable to get a clear response from Neville and they all leave him the cell unattended for a moment, then came back to see if he was breathing.

The footage ends with the attending nurse performing chest compressions for CPR.

According to the autopsy, Neville died of a brain injury due to "positional and compressional asphyxia during prone restraint.”

The five officers and a nurse involved have all been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Photo: WXII 12 News/ Youtube

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