City: No policy violations by officers when man died in custody

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Kay Suber, Marcus Smith's sister, addresses the media. At left is Smith's mother, Mary Smith. (photo by Jordan Green)

An internal review by the Greensboro Police Department found no violations of policy in the conduct of officers involved in the restraint of a 38-year-old man who died in police custody in early September.

The finding was announced by the city in a press release on Wednesday evening. The city also said Guilford County District Attorney’s office has indicated there was no criminal liability by the officers, based on an investigation by the SBI.

“The district attorney’s office states the officers acted at all times within the scope of their duties and with justification under all applicable laws,” the city said.

The family of Marcus Smith, the man who died in police custody, held a press conference on Wednesday at the Beloved Community Center, with an overflow crowd of about 75 people. Smith’s father reviewed police body camera footage of the incident with Graham Holt, a local lawyer, and the family said that officers used a restraint technique known as hogtying before Smith died.

Kay Suber, Smith’s sister, said in a statement today on behalf the family that the officers’ “actions appear to have caused him to pass away. By ‘hogtying’ Marcus, these officers made it impossible for him to continue breathing.

“Marcus asked the officers for help, but instead of being offered help, four white officers used as much force as possible without directly hitting or shooting him,” Suber continued. “There were nine officers on the scene, and four that came in direct contact with him. They could have used other methods to restrain him. ‘Hogtying’ him was completely unnecessary.”

Dozens of community leaders have signed a letter calling on the city to review police department policy on the use of restraints, to disclose whether they use hogtying as a restraint, and to ban the practice, if so.

Neither the city nor the police have specifically addressed questions about the use of hogtying, but Ronald Glenn, the public information officer for the department, told Triad City Beat on Tuesday: “All methods of restraint used are within the national standards.”

The SBI is still awaiting at autopsy and toxicology report on Smith, Special Agent In Charge Scott Williams told City Beat.

Lindy Garnette, executive director of the YWCA of Greensboro, was among the community leaders who signed the letter. She said the department has a track record of unnecessarily harming individuals with mental health challenges.

“How many people have to die before this community says, ‘We’re not gonna do this anymore,’ and somebody holds these folks accountable?” Garnette asked. “This is unacceptable. This is happening too many times.”

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