First Look

Officers will not be charged in death of man they repeatedly Tasered

A Virginia county attorney released a report on Monday regarding the 2013 death of Linwood Lambert, Jr., in police custody. Halifax County, Va., will not press charges against officers involved in Lambert's death. 

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    Gwendolyn Smalls poses for a photo in her home in Richmond, Va. Smalls' brother, Linwood R. Lambert Jr., died in police custody in May of 2013 after being repeatedly stunned by South Boston, Va., police.
    Steve Helber/AP
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A county attorney has determined that there is no need to press charges against police officers in connection with the death of Linwood Lambert, Jr., an African-American man in South Boston, Va., in 2013.

Two officers, Tiffany Bratton and Clifton Mann, repeatedly Tasered Mr. Lambert prior to his death in May, 2013. This week, Halifax County Commonwealth's Attorney Tracy Quackenbush Martin released a report saying that there is no evidence that Lambert’s death was caused by actions taken by the police officers.

Lambert’s sister, Gwendolyn Smalls, said that this case is proof that police officers always get away "with the crimes they commit behind the badge."

Law enforcement officials across the country have been under scrutiny lately for a series of high profile killings and charges of brutality towards African-American individuals, mostly men and teenaged boys. The Black Lives Matter movement has swelled in the past year, challenging politicians and public policy that they claim facilitate these deaths.

In some ways, Lambert’s case was similar to those addressed by the Black Lives Matter movement. He was initially taken into custody for a mental evaluation, but when he arrived with officers Bratton and Mann at the hospital, Lambert kicked out the window of the police cruiser and ran away from officers.

As he ran, officers shocked him multiple times with Tasers, video released in November shows. Finally, they recovered him and arrested him for property damage and disorderly conduct. Lambert was shocked again as he rode, restrained, in the back seat of the police car.

Although Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring says the use of stun guns while Lambert was already in the car was unreasonable, he added that, "There is not a scintilla of evidence that they drive-stunned him with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable, or kill."

During the ordeal, Lambert told officers that he was a cocaine user. Martin says that officers did not realize that there was a bigger problem at hand when they arrested Lambert and removed him from the hospital.

"Because the officers did not appreciate Mr. Lambert's need for emergency medical care, their removal of him from the hospital, although heart-rending, was reasonable," said Ms. Martin in a report.

Lambert’s autopsy revealed that his death was due to a “cocaine induced excited delirum,” and not the officers’ use of Tasers.

Officers also deny allegations of racism, pointing out that one of the officers, Tiffany Bratton, is African-American.

In their defense, officers cited Lambert’s violent behavior and destruction of property. Lambert’s sister, Ms. Smalls, is not convinced.

After Martin’s report was released, Smalls expressed consternation that, "These officers can walk around the streets after what they did to my brother.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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