The family of Jamal Sutherland, a Black man who died while in the Charleston County Jail on Jan. 5, called on news organizations to “do the right thing” in their handling of the video showing their loved one’s death, and pushed for policy changes to stop similar incidents in the future.
“That hurt is not going away,” said Amy Sutherland, Jamal’s mother, during a Friday press conference outside the Al Cannon Detention Center. “It’s still in us. We waited patiently for the tape to be released. People were saying we didn’t want to speak — I wanted to speak the day he died — but we couldn’t tell you something we didn’t know. Now we know. “
Amy Sutherland pleaded with news outlets present during Friday’s press conference to respect her family and the loss of her son by refraining from “parading” the video around and making Jamal’s death out to be a “circus.”
“I just want you to respect my son,” she said. “He is no longer here — he doesn’t need to be in the public every day. Show the video for a short time; put it away. You don’t have to spread my son’s dead body all over for justice.”
“Remember he is a human being, not an animal,” she said. “He was treated like one, but that’s not who Jamal was.”
The family received the footage from Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano last Wednesday, Amy Sutherland said, and after deliberating with their legal counsel and other family members, they decided to release the video to the public yesterday.
“I want us to view this tape, and I want us to learn what we don’t want to have happen again,” Amy Sutherland said. She further stressed that above all else, she wants no violence to come from the loss of her son. “I don’t want any violence in my city,” she said.
While specific examples of change the family is seeking to come from the death of Jamal have not been given, both Amy Sutherland and attorney Mark Peper, who represents the Sutherland family, said they are wanting to see policy changes that would prevent this from happening again and punish those responsible.
“He did everything right,” Peper said of Jamal, who repeatedly told officers he was not resisting as he was pinned to the floor. “What are we doing wrong?”