‘I can’t breathe!’ Video shows police pepper-spraying black man in restraining chair
The footage, published by local community activist David Esrati, was captured on several CCTV cameras in the jail and on a hand-held camera used by one of the officers to film the booking process. Taken in October, it reportedly shows Charles Wade being processed after his arrest for alleged DUI by a state trooper.
In the footage officers are shown searching him and taking off his shoes and socks, before placing him in a seven-point restraint chair. Sometime during the restraining procedure an altercation ensues, and one of the officers shoots a paper-spray jet at the 37-year-old’s face at point blank range. Wade is then heard repeatedly crying, “I can’t breathe. Please, help me,” while some of the jailers are heard coughing, apparently affected by the spray.
The Montgomery County Jail had been criticized for similar treatment of a white woman named Amber Swink the year before. Attorney Douglas Brannon, representing both Wade and Swink in their separate lawsuits, says their cases are not isolated incidents.
“I think this type of treatment is becoming something that happens with impunity within the Montgomery County Jail,” he told the Washington Post.
The phrase Wade was shouting during his ordeal – “I can't breathe” – was a slogan of the Black Lives Matter movement following the July 2014 death of unarmed black man Eric Garner, who died in a policeman’s chokehold. Those were Garner’s last words.