Police in South Boston repeatedly fired their stun guns on a Richmond man before he died in 2013, a network news program revealed Wednesday.
Accompanied by graphic videos of Linwood R. Lambert Jr. being taken into custody, repeatedly shocked at the doors of a hospital, and then slumping nearly unconscious in the back of a police vehicle, the MSNBC investigation apparently buttresses allegations raised in a $25 million suit filed this year by Lambert’s family.
Details of the case were reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and other news outlets in May, when the wrongful death suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Danville. Lambert, who lived in the 400 block of West 27th Street in South Richmond, was working construction in the South Boston area and staying in a motel there, according to his family’s law firm.
“The death of Linwood Lambert Jr. is tragic because it could have been prevented,” plaintiff lawyer Ramon A. Arreola said in a news release when the suit was filed. He said the use of Taser weapons by police has caused hundreds of deaths in the United States.
Virginia State Police said Wednesday that their investigation has been turned over to Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Q. Martin, who wrote in an email Wednesday that the matter remains under investigation by her office. Martin is being assisted by Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring.
The family’s law firm said all three officers involved in the incident have been promoted since Lambert’s death.
MSNBC obtained video footage that shows Lambert, 46, being taken into custody at the South Boston motel where he was staying and nonchalantly taking a seat in a police vehicle after being handcuffed. Motel residents had complained of noises and said Lambert had been muttering incoherently, according to the suit.
“We’re not locking you up. What we’re doing here is we’re going to take you to the emergency room,” one of the officers tells Lambert, who was unarmed, after they picked him up at the motel.
Three police vehicles are shown approaching the parking lot of Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital.
Lambert bolts from one of the cars and crashes, handcuffed, into the glass doors of the hospital. Police allege he had kicked out a rear window of the police car.
Three officers rush to Lambert, who is slumped on the ground, and appear to be shocking him with their Taser devices.
Of the three officers, two are white men and one is a woman whose race could not be determined. Lambert was black.
MSNBC said it obtained 80 minutes of video and other non-public documents associated with the case. It was not clear how MSNBC obtained the videos.
Lambert’s cause of death is described in court filings as cocaine intoxication, although the suit claimed that heart failure was the cause. That discrepancy is part of the litigation in the case, one facet of which is scheduled to be heard by a federal magistrate in Roanoke today.
The suit alleges widespread wrongdoing by South Boston police and argues that Lambert’s death could have been prevented. News releases issued by Virginia State Police and Halifax authorities at the time Lambert died did not include information about him being shocked.
In the video footage obtained by MSNBC, the officers can be seen lifting Lambert from the ground and returning him to a police vehicle instead of leading him into the emergency room after he is shocked. Lambert’s attorneys argue that he remained in the vehicle without help for some 15 minutes before he was transported to a regional jail 4 miles from the hospital.
Lambert, according to court documents, received CPR at the jail from rescue personnel about 5:30 a.m. and he was returned to the hospital. As much as an hour had passed from the time he first left the hospital entrance. He was pronounced dead at 6:23 a.m.
In the video, while he is on the ground outside the hospital, an officer yells at him: “I’m going to light you up.” Lambert tells the officers he used cocaine and says, “Why you all trying to kill me?” before he is placed back in the cruiser.
“Act like you got some sense,” an officer yells at Lambert, who appears nearly unconscious and is slumping over in a police vehicle after the encounter outside the hospital. He is bleeding, and his eyes appear unresponsive.
News reports, citing court records, have said that the medical examiner’s office has concluded that Lambert died of acute cocaine intoxication.
In court documents, Lambert family lawyers say he died in a “murder” at the hands of police.
The Taser devices record how often and for how long they are deployed. Officers fired their stun guns 20 times for a total of 87 seconds. It is not clear how many of the Taser activations actually struck and affected Lambert.