Police custody death ruled homicide; city seeks video

A black man’s death in police custody was ruled a homicide by the North Carolina medical examiner Friday, and officials want a court to release body-camera footage of the events.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said officers put Marcus Deon Smith, 38, in a patrol car on Sept. 8 after finding him suicidal, disoriented and running through traffic, the News & Record of Greensboro reported . Emergency personnel arrived about five minutes after officers reached the scene, police said.

The autopsy report said Smith became agitated after police placed him in a patrol car. They opened the door and Smith got out, the report said.

“Multiple officers then placed him prone on the ground. His hands were then cuffed behind his back, and a strap was placed on his ankles to secure them to the handcuffs behind his back,” the report said. “No chokeholds or conducted electrical weapons were applied. During this process, the decedent was grunting loudly, then more quietly.

“After restraints were applied, officers checked on him and found that he was unresponsive (not breathing, but with a pulse),” the report said. He was taken to a hospital and died an hour later.

The report concluded that Smith died of cardiopulmonary arrest caused by a variety of factors including “prone restraint” as well as a combination of drugs, alcohol and cardiovascular disease.

The city of Greensboro said it’s filing a petition with Guilford County Superior Court to request the release of body-worn camera footage.

“Due to the multitude of factors that led to tragic circumstances for Mr. Smith … the City of Greensboro believes there is a compelling public interest to share the video,” the city said in a written statement.

The city of Greensboro said previously that officers followed all procedures in the events before Smith’s death and that the four officers who had been placed on administrative duty are back on their regular patrol duties after the Guilford County District Attorney’s Office concluded they did not violate any policies. The races of the officers weren’t immediately known.