GREENSBORO — The city released officer body-camera footage Friday night of an arrest that an autopsy said played a role in Marcus Deon Smith’s death while in police custody in September.
And the Greensboro Police Department is changing how it applies the device used during Smith’s arrest that family members said left him “hogtied” on the ground.
Smith, 38, died of cardiopulmonary arrest caused by a variety of factors including “prone restraint” at the hands of police as well as a combination of drugs, alcohol and cardiovascular disease, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said in an autopsy released Friday that also ruled Smith’s death a homicide.
In a news release the city said Superior Court Judge Susan Bray ruled that Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott could release footage of the arrest. Earlier Friday, the city said in a written statement that, “due to the multitude of factors that led to tragic circumstances for Mr. Smith,” the city “believes there is a compelling public interest to share the video.”
The city also said officials continue “to review the initial findings of the Medical Examiner’s report. Chief Scott has elected to modify the application of the RIPP Hobble device used to restrain individuals, while police continue to review the use of this method of restraint.”
A compilation of the body-worn camera footage, with narration from Scott, is posted on the city’s website, the city said in the release. The remaining footage from all officers involved will be added as it’s available.
The city said Greensboro City Council members have viewed the footage in small groups.
An attorney for Smith’s family said in November that police body camera video shows Smith died on the ground with his hands and feet tied behind him as Greensboro police stood nearby talking.
Police said in a news release in September that officers found Smith suicidal and disoriented, running in and out of traffic in the 100 block of North Church Street at 12:42 a.m. Sept. 8. EMS arrived about five minutes after officers, police said in the release.
Medical examiners said in the autopsy report that police placed Smith in a patrol car, where he became agitated. They opened the door and Smith got out of the car.
“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. 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),” according to the autopsy report.
Smith was taken to a hospital for further treatment and died about an hour later, according to police.
The autopsy report said that “the cause of death is listed as sudden cardiopulmonary arrest due to prone restraint,” plus the use of a drug commonly known as MDMA/ecstasy, cocaine, and alcohol and “hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.”
The city of Greensboro has said 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 city said Friday in its news release: “As previously stated, per Greensboro Police Department protocol, the State Bureau of Investigation was contacted immediately following the incident in September to conduct an independent investigation. Additional details will be provided after the court’s ruling has been finalized.”
The Homeless Union of Greensboro, which has been active in publicizing the case, repeated Friday a request from Smith’s family that the Greensboro City Council watch the video and “hold the officers accountable for their actions immediately.”
The Homeless Union will hold a public meeting on the case at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Shiloh Baptist Church at 1210 S. Eugene St.