Patrick Warren, Sr. Hearing – January 27, 2021, 9 am Eastern
Transcript: Hearing on the Case of Patrick Warren, Sr.
- Rapporteur Ria Julien
- Commissioner Ms. Hina Jilani
- Commissioner Prof. Niloufer Bhagwat
- Lee Merritt, attorney for the Warren family
- Patrick Warren, Jr, the son of Patrick Warren, Sr.
- Dwayne Palmer, the brother of Everett Palmer
- Addie Kitchen, the mother of Steven Taylor
Ria Julien 00:28
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the hearings of the International Commission of Inquiry on systemic racist police violence against people of African descent in the United States. These hearings are a process by which witnesses can present accounts of the unjustified killings and maimings of Black people by police officers in the United States before an international panel of human rights experts. We now begin the hearing in the case of Patrick Warren Sr. My name is Ria Julien and I am the rapporteur for this hearing. Presiding over this hearing today is Commissioner Niloufer Bhagwat of India and Commissioner Hina Jilani of Pakistan. The wit there will be several witnesses for this hearing today. The first witness will be Attorney Lee Merritt for the family of Patrick Warren Sr. Also with us today is the son of Patrick Warren, Sr., Mr. Patrick Warren, Jr. Also present today are family members of other victims represented by Mr. Merritt’s firm. I’d like to acknowledge the parents of Everett Palmer, Dwayne Palmer and Rose Palmer, as well as the mother of victim Steve Taylor, Ms. Addie Kitchen. I would like to, I will be swearing in the witnesses shortly. But first, there will be let me explain. There will be 50 minutes for this hearing. Witnesses will testify, followed by a period of questions from commissioners. I will call time at the 30 minute mark and the 45 minute mark. Please excuse my interruptions. commissioners Bhagwat and Jilani I now present to you your first witness, Attorney Lee Merritt. Attorney Lee Merritt, please confirm your name.
Lee Merritt 02:31
My name is Stacy Sylvester Lee Merritt.
Ria Julien 02:35
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Lee Merritt 02:41
Ria Julien 02:42
You may begin.
Lee Merritt 02:46
Thank you so much for this critical commission on policing in America. I will introduce myself, give you a brief background of my work, and then discuss specifically the case of Mr. Patrick Warren Sr., but similarly situated cases will have five additional reference cases. that deal with people suffering mental health crisis will ultimately had force used against them in a way that we deemed non justifiable. I’ll start off by saying who I am. As you heard from the chairwoman, my name is Stacy Sylvester Lee Merritt. I’m commonly known as Lee Merritt, and I’m a civil rights attorney. I am from Los Angeles, California, was born in 1983. During the height of what many would call the crack pandemic in America, I was born to a family of a single mother and an incarcerated father. My father was incarcerated in the drug trade and for being a member of a street gang in Los Angeles. As a result, I found myself personally tethered to the prison industrial complex for a great deal of my life, facing criminal charges myself from an adolescent into my adulthood, developing a juvenile record. I have two older brothers who are both considered felons and have been incarcerated. My father still remains currently incarcerated today for drug possession. I give that reference to, so that you all might better understand my background as it relates to policing in America, as a 37 year old Black man.
I represent the families of Tavis Crane, Jordan Edwards and I have to rattle off a few in the past four years. Jeffrey Dennis, O’Shea Terry, Botham Jean, Shaquille Rogers, Michael Brisco, Deonte Yarborough, Jamil Robeson, Sterling Hubbard, Pamela Turner, Stacy Winn, Everett Palmer, Hannah Williams, Atatiana Jefferson, Michael Dean, Cameron Lamb, Demetrius Williams, Darius Tarver, Donstad Sanders, Steven Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Ronald Green, George Floyd, Robert Harris, Brandon Roberts, Dula Mohammed, Anthony McClain, Damien Daniels, Margarita Brooks, Shaheed Azhari, and Patrick Warren Sr. Getting into the facts, by way of background just a bit more. I attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, a historically Black college or university, attended law school at Temple University in Philadelphia, where I graduated in 2012, and have since worked exclusively in the area of constitutional violations, running an independent firm, Merritt Law Firm LLC.
I’m going to give you all some some statistics that I assume that you have reference to. However, the bulk of my testimony will be about the specific cases, which I referenced previously. The United States police officers are allowed to brutalize incarcerate and kill citizens that comply — that fail to comply with verbal commands from state agents. African Americans are disproportionately impacted by unnecessary force and wrongful incarceration. Persons in experiencing mental health crises are more than 16 times more likely to be killed by US law enforcement than the average citizen. According to recent studies that I will share with this commission, several studies have established African Americans are already at least 2.5 times more likely to be killed by US police officers than other, other citizens. The United States boasts the largest prison population in recorded history as of 2016, the last year for which to present supervision that is available. 2.2 million people were incarcerated in the United States jails and prisons. But more than twice as many, 4.5 million people, or one in every 55 people were under supervision. Supervision rates vary vastly by state, from one in every 168 people in New Hampshire to one in every 18 people in Georgia. Similarly, the US law enforcement model represents the deadliest police culture in the modern world. When comparing annual rates of police killings in each country, accounting for differences in population size, America leads the industrialized world in rates of police violence, averaging 33.5 per 10 million, more than tripling the rate of the nearest comparable country.
On January 10, 2021, just a couple of weeks ago, Patrick Warren Sr was shot to death by officer Reynaldo Contreras, a five year veteran of the Killeen police department, following a request for mental health services in the city of Killeen located in Bell County, Texas. Officer Contreras discharged 50,000 volts of electricity by use of stun gun after Warren failed to comply with Contreras’ order to get down on the ground upon exiting his home. The stun from Contreras’ electric weapon caused Warren to fall to the ground in great pain. However, the weapon was ineffective in neutralizing Warren’s manic condition. Warren remained conscious, mobile, and increasingly irritated by Contreras’ actions. Officer Contreras escalated the encounter by brandishing his firearm and shooting more than three times in rapid succession until Warren collapsed to the ground a second time. Contreras’ actions were later ratified. Officer Contreras’ actions were later ratified by the Chief of Police of Killeen, Texas, Charles F. Kimble. Chief Kimble has asserted that Contreras received more than adequate training on dealing with citizens in mental health crises and that his actions reflected the training that he had received. That’s that is the case of Patrick Warren, which I will answer questions for and allow Mr. Patrick Warren Jr. to answer questions as well. The other four cases I’ll be referencing deal with Army veteran Sergeant Damien Daniels, Steven Taylor. Darius Tarver. Brandon Roberts and Pamela Turner, I’m sorry, also Army veteran Everett Palmer. Starting with US Army veteran Sergeant Damien Daniels on August 25 of 2020. He was shot to death in his front lawn as well. The front lawn of the home he recently purchased in San Antonio, Texas.
Ria Julien 09:51
I’m sorry to interrupt. Would you like us to proceed with Mr. Patrick Warren Jr. at this time? I can swear him in if he’d like to make a statement at this time before we proceed.
Lee Merritt 10:03
No, because because I think it would be most helpful to the commission to compare some of the policies and facts of each case. I would like to share about all of the cases briefly, and then swearing in additional witnesses is best.
Ria Julien 10:20
Okay. Thank you.
Lee Merritt 10:22
On August 25 2020, US Army veteran Sergeant Damian Lamar Daniels was shot to death on the front lawn of his home that he recently purchased in San Antonio, Texas. Officer Jonathan Rodriguez, a 14 year veteran of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department responding to a non emergency mental health call placed with the American Red Cross by members of Sergeant Daniels’ family. It’s important that the call was made to the American Red Cross. When Sergeant Daniels refused to voluntarily accompany responding officers to a treatment facility, Officers Enrique Cepeda and Rodriguez attempted to forcibly remove Daniels from his property. In the ensuing struggle, Rodriguez brandished his firearm and shot Daniels two times in rapid succession. Rodriguez’s actions were later ratified by Bexar County Sheriff’s department where he remains on duty. Daniels was the second known citizen suffering a mental health crisis killed by Rodriguez. Rodriguez has been retained by the Bexar County Sheriff’s despite a history of domestic violence and the unnecessary use of force resulting in the death of at least two citizens.
On April 20, I’m sorry on April 18 of 2020. Stephen Taylor was shot to death by officer John Fletcher, a 20 year veteran of the San Leandro police department. Fletcher was responding to a call regarding an alleged shoplifting episode at a Walmart store when he encountered Taylor holding a baseball bat inside of the store in obvious mental health distress. Without waiting for his backup officer. Fletcher confronted Taylor by attempting to take away the bat and immediately pointing his stun gun at Taylor when he was unable to retrieve the bat. Seconds later, Fletcher began to deploy his stun gun on Taylor. The stun from Fletcher’s electric weapon made it difficult for Taylor to remain in a standing position. While Taylor struggled from the effects of the stun gun, Fletcher shot him in the chest with with his firearm killing him. The entire encounter lasted only 40 seconds. Months later, in September of 2020, Fletcher was criminally charged with voluntary manslaughter based on a new use of force statue out of California, unique in the 50 states. Prosecutors have asserted that Taylor posed no threat of imminent deadly force or bodily injury to Fletcher when he was shot and killed by the officer. On January 21, of 2020, Darius Tarver was shot to death by officers with within the Denton Police Department outside of his apartment complex. experiencing a mental health episode.
Darius Tarver was a graduating senior from the University of North Texas and a criminal justice major. He was he was a member of the National Organization of Black law enforcement officers. His father was a member of the McKinney police department and he hoped to join his father as a police officer. He was a 23 year old college student, Tarver had been slowly recovering from a motor vehicle accident that left him hospitalized that month. Police were dispatched to the apartment complex after calls about Tarver experiencing mental health distress. One of the four officers encountered Oct. demanded he put down a frying pan he was holding in his hand, as he was walking down the stairs of the apartment complex. When caught, when Tarver continued to walk towards the officers, officers continued to shout commands while he was standing completely still at the base of the steps. He was then stunned or shot with a stun gun by one of the officers, which allowed him to be disarmed and tased to the ground, removing the fire, I’m sorry, the frying pan and any other weapons he had on his person. However, he was not brought under control. Once down to the ground, he was allowed to stand back up, grab a frying pan and move towards one of four officers surrounding him. At this point, he had been stunned with 50,000 volts of electricity and shot one time. The officer in his direct line of pass, officer. I’m sorry, I don’t have his name here in my notes, but the Denton, Texas officer firing officer, shot him two additional times killing him. The officer’s actions were ratified by the Denton police chief Frank Dixon. None of the officers involved in this incident have been fired or criminally charged or punished.
On January 5 of 2020 Brandon Roberts was shot to death outside of his home by officers within the Milford Police Department of Delaware. Officers Nigel Golding and Patrick Karpin had been dispatched to the apartment complex for reports of of a domestic dispute. Roberts had contact with police himself that day while experience, experiencing a mental health episode, and the police department was aware that he was having a mental breakdown. When officers arrived to the apartment, Roberts fiance somewhere in the bedroom of the apartment, Roberts opened the apartment door and advanced to the hallway towards the police officers before he was immediately shot within five seconds of the encounter in a barrage of bullets. One bullet fired by the officers went through a couch and into the baby’s playroom, which had put the entire family at risk of harm. The actions taken by Golding and Karpin were ratified by the Milford chief of police Kenneth Brown, who initially placed officers on administrative leave as the custom, but months later reinstated the officers to full duty in May of 2020. Neither Golding or Karpin have been terminated or criminally charged in the kind of killings of Brandon Roberts.
On May 13 of 2019 Pamela Turner was shot to death by officer Juan Delacruz in the Baytown Police Department near Houston, Texas. while she, while she was outside of her apartment complex, Delacruz was attempting to arrest Turner for outstanding warrants when she told him that she was trying to walk home and felt like she was being harassed. Ms. Warren was a known member of this community who suffered from mental health crisis and often wandered about the apartment complex. Delacruz escalated the encounter by physically restraining Turner alone as he stood over her and attempted to grab her arms, as the struggle continued, to yell out in distress that she was pregnant. And seconds later Delacruz fired five gunshots killing Ms. Turner at point blank range. In September of 2020 Delacruz was criminally charged with aggravated assault by a public servant, but his actions on the night of Turner’s death continue to be ratified by the city and police department that employ him. Delacruz has not been terminated from his employment as a Baytown police officer.
On April 9 of 2018 Army veteran Everett Palmer Jr. was killed while in custody in York County, Pennsylvania. Palmer had voluntarily traveled to York County on April 7 of 2018 to resolve an issue involving an old warrant on traffic tickets. Although much mystery surrounds Palmer’s death, we do know that Palmer was physically restrained before becoming unresponsive being while being held inside of a cell for two days. Palmer’s body was returned to his family missing his heart, brain and throat. Although officers within the facility violated clear policies and procedures on dealing with individuals in custody. There has been no accountability for the conduct of the officers in interacting with Palmer and ultimately restraining him and rendering him unresponsive before his death. It’s worth noting that we have additional video evidence that has not been released to the public that one officer provided narcotics to Mr. Palmer in a cell while he was suffering from mental health crisis. I believe with that I am open to questions and I again want to introduce Mr. Patrick Warren Jr. as well as the other witnesses available for testimony. I want to make two quick references. Addie Kitchen, who lives in California, may may or may not be available as a grandmother of Steven Taylor, and an activist and organizer in the northern California community that does have a unique use of force statue that I do believe leads to greater accountability for police officers and is worthy of inquiry. Mr. Dwayne Palmer is a retired veteran of the New York City Police Department. Everett Palmer, his younger brother, an army veteran, was the gentleman that I last described. And I believe you are familiar with Patrick Warren Jr.
Ria Julien 19:30
Commissioners, would you like to proceed with questions at this time? Mr. Warren Jr. Would you like to make a statement?
Patrick Warren, Jr. 19:39
No statement, but if you guys have any questions for me, I’d love to answer them.
Ria Julien 19:47
As the commissioners are preparing, I wonder, Attorney Merritt. Could you speak a little bit to this California statute? What distinguishes it and what was the background of its formulation and how do you assess its adequacy, given your broad national practice?
Lee Merritt 20:05
Yes, ma’am. I can give a rudimentary understanding of the law. There are many activists who worked for years to have this new use of force statute passed. It was passed just last year. And Stephen Taylor’s case is the first case that I’ve seen, proceed with the prosecution of an officer, specifically referencing this new statute. The idea is, in most of the United States, officers can claim that they feared for their lives, and that fear for their lives is sufficient justification for the use of deadly force. Under the California statute, that fear has to be specifically tied to an actual threat of harm to the officers that could lead to serious bodily injury or death. In the case of Steven Taylor, he was holding a baseball bat or brandishing a baseball bat. In most jurisdictions, is possession of a weapon that could cause serious bodily harm would have been sufficient to ratify the behaviors of law enforcement specifically to justify the use of force. However, in this particular case, the prosecutors and grand jury in Alameda County opined or concluded that the baseball bat, given the proximity of Mr. Taylor, his demeanor, his behavior did not represent a mortal threat to the officers or any of the bystanders nearby. And that and because of that, this officer was indicted on insufficient charges, something less than murder. manslaughter. I believe Ms. Kitchen, who is present, or family may be able to speak more specifically about that. However, it was the In my opinion, it was the use of the statute that required a specific tethering or identification of the actual threat, not just an imagined threat in the minds of law enforcement, that allowed the case to go forward for criminal charges.
Ria Julien 22:14
Commissioners, would you like to proceed with questions now or shall I continue? While you’re preparing? Commissioner Bhagwat, It appears you’d like to ask a question, we can’t hear you.
Niloufer Bhagwat 22:28
Attorney Merritt. Can you hear me now? Yes. Can you hear me?
Lee Merritt 22:33
Yes, Your Honor.
Niloufer Bhagwat 22:37
You refer to this California statute. When was this passed? When was it enacted?
Lee Merritt 22:44
I can only give you the year and it was that it was enacted in 2020.
Niloufer Bhagwat 22:48
In 2020, that’s very recently.
Lee Merritt 22:51
Niloufer Bhagwat 22:54
Now regarding mental health issues, the police department has no training in counseling, in dialoguing, in interacting, because it is well known that in cases of mental health, there is no question of the individual being treated as an offender. Civilized jurisprudence disallows the treatment of a person with mental health as an offender. So where is the question of using violence on the individual concerned?
Lee Merritt 23:51
Can I speak?
Niloufer Bhagwat 23:51
Yes, please do. Please clarify this.
Lee Merritt 23:56
Your Honor, you mentioned first that the officers received no training for dealing with folks suffering from mental health crisis. In the city of Killeen, Texas officers are required to receive 40 hours of Mental Health Training. Officers in the case of Patrick Warren Sr. present a actually a unique situation, where on the ninth on January 9, the day before he was killed by police, his family reached out to a Mental Health Resource Officer provided by the county, the Bell County Sheriff’s Department, as specially trained officers who receive above 40 additional hours more than the required training, so 80 hours of training to deal with mental, with individuals suffering from mental health distress. The officer who responded initially on the Saturday to Patrick Warren’s home took on a similar approach of the offending officer. He knocked on the door. He was in plainclothes. And he has a weapon, was not on display. He also brought a backup officer with him, engaged the family, who after he was invited into the home, he sat down on the couch. And he spoke with Mr. Warren, and he utilized best practices for for dealing with individuals in mental health crisis.
Lee Merritt 25:21
In doing so he was able to successfully convince Mr. Warren to go to a treatment facility where he did travel and return home later that night. When he was experiencing a crisis the following day, because he received such exemplary service from the sheriff’s department the date previously, he called the same number. The sheriff’s department did not have officers with that training available on that particular day. And so they sent it sent out a standard officer, officer Reynardo Contreras. And, obviously, that what what occurred was very, very different than an officer with training. I say that to say it seems at least in this case, that officers with additional training, who understand that the suspects that they are encountering are considered patients, not criminal suspects, not offenders, but people who simply need help, and they deal with them accordingly. Other officers are trained to assess threats, to deal with everyone as if they are a criminal suspect and to use force to demand compliance and when compliance is not immediately attained, they escalate the use of force. That is, in fact, their training. It obviously directly conflicts with their training towards dealing with individuals in mental health crisis, because High Command, an escalation on the use of force spectrum is ineffective for remedying those, those forms of crisis.
Niloufer Bhagwat 27:00
Excuse me attorney for saying that these series of cases and the other cases which we have heard, which have been heard by this commission, leads to the conclusion that the training is shoot to kill. These are not instances of any kind of training except shoot to kill. Because can you say that in any one of these instances, there was any threat whatsoever?
Lee Merritt 27:41
In very few of these cases have I’ve seen tangible threats to the police. In fact, we don’t take on cases that we that we believe a credible threat exists and therefore justifying the use of force by the officer. The training that these officers received is to shoot by the center mass and and I’m grateful to have with me, Mr. Dwayne Palmer, the brother of Everett Palmer, who was a New York City police officer, and he probably can speak more directly to the general training, although obviously it will be since there are no or few national standards, you will be limited to his experience. As a police officer in a particular in the city of New York, however, the training is shoot by the center mass until until the threat is terminated. The threat assessment training is what I find most deficient because officers tend to assess a threat, whereas in the case of Mr. Patrick Warren, Sr, the articulated threat that caused him to leave the home and take a tactical position outside was that a bad feeling that he got when he stepped into the house. That he was suspicious that Mr. Warren, although visible, standing in light with his hands available, seemed in his words “creepy,” and that was enough for him to escalate to a tactical position and to draw a stun gun.
Niloufer Bhagwat 29:14
Once again, I wish to emphasize that here you have given us evidence of the actual pattern of conduct of a police force. It’s a pattern, it’s not one case, it is the consistent fact. Now, when we refer to a republic, and I presume that the United States of America is a republic, it calls itself one. It’s claims to be a democracy. Like other countries. How is it compatible for any member of the police force to be given a license to kill when police training, the fact that they are paid by the citizen, and every citizen pays tax, whether direct or indirect. How is the police force permitted to conduct itself as though a section of society is in a concentration camp where you don’t see the borders, you don’t see the fences? But in effect, the policing in those communities is indicative of the fact that the police are operating as prison guards of a community which finds itself under siege?
Lee Merritt 31:04
I think that’s an accurate assessment. And the justification given, I believe lies in what we discussed earlier, the statistics that were discussed earlier, and that this panel address with the previous speaker, it’s the idea in the policy, the specific policy of the war on drugs. It’s termed a war on drugs. But as this council has pointed out, the war seems to be on specific communities, inner city communities with large Black and brown populations. Because law enforcement is and state agents are both responsible for the placement of the drugs and the distribution of the drugs, and in ways that have been demonstrated repeatedly through the release of federal documents. And so there’s a clear trace of where the drugs are coming from and who’s responsible and the government is both aware and complicit in the distribution and in purchasing of those drugs. They have allowed themselves, they have allowed law enforcement, they have authorized law enforcement, when I say most cities, states, and municipalities have authorized law enforcement to enforce drug laws against a particular segment of the community, where there are concentrations of poverty and minority communities, as long as they are targeting their violence towards those communities. In response to mental health crisis, substance use crisis, poverty, and, and one clear indicator with the stop and frisk policy that is formal policy in some regions and general policy in others, is the targeting of Black and brown peoples as identifiers of people who could be either suffering from mental health crisis, substance abuse struggles, poverty, or trafficking.
Niloufer Bhagwat 32:58
One more aspect. You can correct me on this, if I’m wrong, but the United States government has ratified the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. Article six of the convention ensures that every human being has an inherent right to life, this right shall be protected by law, no one shall arbitrarily be deprived of his life. All these instances which you have given us, off clear cases, individuals suffering from mental health problems, who have been deprived of their rights. Is this correct?
Lee Merritt 33:47
that will be correct, completely unnecessary and justifiable use of force of a particularly vulnerable community. Those suffering from mental health crisis, as I mentioned, in my opening are 16 times more likely to be killed by police. If you are Black and suffering from a mental health crisis, you take that number, and you multiply it times 2.5, which the data reflects a clear and consistent targeting of this most vulnerable community population. And that’s despite rank or class in society that is military veterans, police officers, women, men and children.
Niloufer Bhagwat 34:23
Thank you for your time.
Lee Merritt 34:26
Hina Jilani 34:29
Attorney Sells, thank you very much. I’m sorry, Merritt. Thank you very much for your testimony. And I’m really grateful that you have taken the trouble to refer to us certain cases which were a different kind of encounter between the police force and the victim, which is, you know, you explain the situation of people who are suffering from some kind of mental health distress, whether it’s momentary or a more permanent. And because of their conduct, some emergency response was needed from the police. And that encounter also shows to us that no matter what, the police really either misuses this whole justification of fear for life in order to, you know, be more trigger happy, let us say. And I really think it’s more important for us to have as many cases as possible and get as many expert opinions on this, to be able to really articulate well what Commissioner Bhagwat feels at this time. And I totally agree with her. But of course, we will give our conclusions at the end of this inquiry. So can you define us any, any literature on this? You said you could give us some reference to some statistics and some studies on this, especially related to responding to encounters with, with people with mental distress or mental health issues?
Lee Merritt 36:16
If the panel will allow and thank you for your question, the panel will allow, I have spoken with Mr. Emel Mcdowell, about presenting to the panel additional cases. Because of the short notice, I wasn’t able to collect all the data that I would like to submit to the panel. However, I will supplement this conversation today, with the data, it’s a couple of important things about the data that is available based on the US Census data and other universities, scholars and universities that have processed information available in the US Census from 2016. The data is inaccurate and incomplete. Most quote, for example, officers kill about 1099, on average kill about 1099 people a year. Throughout the 50 states, of course, varying according to the year, however, that data is only considering people shot by the police. And so people who were tased, or people who were choked like George Floyd, or like Eric Garner, who were restrained and choked, and smothered to death would not be included. And very little data is included for the 2.2 million people who exist behind, as we call it behind the walls, but who are incarcerated. And so there is that available, the data is telling about the specific racial patterns and violence in the US, that again, I will submit with this panel. Sorry, supplement with this conversation. But it’s important to note that even the data as it as it exists, is skewed.
Hina Jilani 37:53
Thank you very much. I have no further questions.
Ria Julien 38:00
Thank you, Mr. Merritt. Unless there are further questions from the commissioners at this time. It’s 9:37. We have 13 minutes left in the hearing. I think it would be interesting to hear from some of the family members at this time, if we might pose questions to them. And maybe I might begin with with the family member with, Dwayne Palmer, Attorney Merritt had mentioned that your family has a background in law enforcement. And I wonder what kind of perspective that gives you on the tragedy the killing of, of Everett Palmer, how you view obviously, that loss of your brother, but also the institutional or some of the critique of police officers with respect to training, etc. in the case of your brother. Might you elucidate for us how these two things came together your feelings with law enforcement and the particular facts around your brother’s killing?
Lee Merritt 39:09
Chairwoman, if I may add to that question just a bit if you can talk about the procedural posture of your case, both civilly and criminally and the difficulties you all have had in accessing some of the evidence available in state custody?
Dwayne Palmer 39:24
So good morning, everyone. Thank you for allowing, to this panel in allowing us to watch our concerns. My name is Dwayne Palmer. As attorney Merritt had already noted, I had a 30 year career in the New York City Police Department. I recently retired as of August of 2019. And so a lot has happened in the field of policing since that time with the Black Lives Matter movement. I can only speak to my experiences. Prior to that and types of training that I was given. I’m not sure if any training has been adjusted or changed since a period of time. Also, I just want to indicate I was not a actual trainer in the New York City Police Department. But in my 30 years of service was often emphasized through training. I know there was references about whether receiving Mental Health Training and the type of training that we received, to deal with people who are in mental health crisis. And I think that those two things are a little bit different when we speak. But in our training, we are talking about duty of care for the people that would be taken into custody. And in addition to that, when we would receive a 911 call to respond to a person in crisis, we were supposed to respond with a number of resources.
Generally, a supervisor was supposed to respond to all calls of emotionally disturbed persons along with multiple units, at least two units in tow, as well as their emergency medical technician. So that’s supposed, that was the portfolio that’s supposed to be sent to any qualified person that’s in emotional distress, with a also a training with a host of non lethal tools that can be used when encountering somebody with a mental health crisis, such as the hard plastic shield so that if the person had an object like a frying pan or blunt, blunt instruments like a bat, or a knife, that did give some level of protection. And the thought process behind it was always to isolate and contain a person until you can get the proper resources available to deal with that person in crisis. So that was a training that we received, involved in the training that I employed in my time in my 30 years in the police department, I just want to circle back to the concept of duty of care when with regards to the treatment of my brother. So my brother Everett Palmer Jr, as far as we’re told, by the authorities in Pennsylvania, York County, Pennsylvania, voluntarily took himself to a local police precinct in regards to a prior, a DUI that he had had, in terms of trying to get clarification on whether he had a valid license to travel to New York, because my mom was having a medical procedure done.
And we believe that he wanted to travel up here for that for that particular purpose. So I didn’t have any contact with him prior to that. So we’re not really sure what his purpose was. But he turned himself in, he voluntarily took himself to local law enforcement authorities. They held him with regards to a warrant based on his past license of the infraction of a DUI, which was a non violent crime. He was taken to a local holding facility or county prison where he was supposed to have received bail the following Monday. So all these incidents proceeded from Friday through Monday, in which case somewhere between that Friday and Monday, my brother passed away. So it’s almost three years now, since that event happened. And we’ve had a number of legal difficulties in obtaining information as to what specifically happened to my brother inside of the prison. It took them, the York County Coroner’s office, number of months to even issue a death certificate on behalf of my brother. He died in April, the death certificate wasn’t rendered until sometime in July or maybe August. And that was only after we went down and held a protest in front of the York County District Attorney’s Office. And the result of the determination in that autopsy report was that my brother’s death was undetermined? Well, he walked in there physically healthy. As far as we know, he had no other medical conditions before walking in there. He’s in their facility. They had a duty of care. According to them, they had him in a single person holding cell where he had no other access to any other of the prisoners or inmates inside that prison. And yet, and we’re assuming that in the modern facility that there will be video recordings.
And yet they say that, you know, it’s a mystery to them as to how he passed away. The death certificate is right now, it says undetermined like I stated before. They indicated three causes on his death certificate. One being a sickle cell disorder, which every male in my family has. We don’t actually have the disease, but we have the trait. The other one being excited state delirium due to methamphetamine toxicity. Again, he was in within their possession for almost three days. The question that we often ask York county as well, where did this methamphetamine came come from if he had this toxicity, if he’s in their possession for that period of time, and then they vaguely mentioned restraint procedures, but in that mentioning, they don’t describe what procedures were utilized and what actually happened to my brother to cause his particular death, in addition to that, it’s not identified, as far as I know, the officers that engage with my brother on the day that he died, and they’ve kind of mired the entire legal proceedings with gag orders preventing the family and now attorneys from talking about whatever information that we do have, and we’re, maybe attorney Merritt can speak to it. We’re in court right now fighting battles to try to get more information from them. hopefully that answered your question. I can go on to so much more information. But I don’t know if someone has another question.
Lee Merritt 45:38
It’s worth noting that the we were under seal, allowed to see the video of Mr. Palmer’s custody. And so when they refer to meth, methamphetamines, he came in sober. He was searched. He was without drugs. He was hailed, he was tested, there was no note that he was carrying or under the influence of any unlegal substance or controlled substance. And then there was a video portion where an officer is seen, putting into his cell, a baggie containing a white substance that we believe to be a methamphetamine. And then walking away. Mr. Mr. Palmer, began to mentally deteriorate while within the cell and I say mentally deteriorate, openly hallucinate, strip himself, before ingesting the drugs, I guess as a way to respond to his mental health crisis and officers slipped him what we believe to be methamphetamines, and is in a situation deteriorated to the point where he became, again, inflicting injury upon himself. So.
Dwayne Palmer 46:45
I also want to add, I know that attorney Merritt also mentioned, you know, my brother was an Army veteran. And I believe that he was under the care of a doctor for mental disorder, for from his time in the service. I also mentioned, my father was also a military veteran. I was a military veteran. And my father was also, who recently passed away was also a New York City police officer. So we have a long history of law enforcement in our family. I have a brother who is a EMT, emergency medical technician as well. And I have a brother who has a doctorate in physical therapy. So you know, we all kind of work in those fields together. Family, I mean.
Ria Julien 47:29
Thank you, Mr. Palmer. We have three minutes left in the hearing.
Niloufer Bhagwat 47:38
I would like to question Mr. Palmer
Ria Julien 47:41
Go ahead, Commissioner.
Niloufer Bhagwat 47:42
Mr. Palmer can you hear me?
Dwayne Palmer 47:44
Niloufer Bhagwat 47:47
My apologies that we have put you through, once again, the trauma and agony of losing your brother in circumstances which are wholly unclear, and for which there is no closure. You say that there is a video. Attorney Merritt does inform us that there is a video. Is there a video of your brother when he was in custody?
Dwayne Palmer 48:24
Well, our family has not seen a video. Initially when the incident happened in 2018. We had requested through the authorities of York county to see the video. We were initially told that when there was no video, that story later changed several weeks or months later to that there was a video but it was so badly obscured or damaged, that it was unviewable and unrecognizable and that they wouldn’t show it. And then it went, that was the response to the family up until we heard from our attorneys that there actually indeed was a video. But we will, but there was a gag order placed upon that video for non dissemination, and that we couldn’t talk about it publicly. So today, our family has not seen any video of what happened to my brother when he was in the custody of York county corrections facility.
Niloufer Bhagwat 49:14
What is the explanation given for the gag order on the video?
Dwayne Palmer 49:21
Lee Merritt 49:23
The explanation is that it’s the subject of an ongoing investigation, which is normally normally the the excuse that we were given and obviously the video aids in the ongoing investigation and should not be..
Niloufer Bhagwat 49:39
Is the family not entitled to see the video when they have when they have taken up proceedings? I understand?
Lee Merritt 49:49
That will be up to the discretion of the court who has favored the prosecutors up to this point. We continue to seek the release of that information. There is no right to access to the video, it’s up to the judge’s discretion.
Niloufer Bhagwat 50:03
So really, not even in discovery.
Lee Merritt 50:09
We have received some things in discovery but under, still based on discretion on the court under seal, meaning we cannot share with the public.
Niloufer Bhagwat 50:19
I speak to Mr. Palmer again, please.
Dwayne Palmer 50:23
Niloufer Bhagwat 50:26
About the loss of his organs? When did you discover that?
Dwayne Palmer 50:33
So, initially, when the York County Coroner’s Office contacted us and the story that they gave about my brother, I will say that, in my opinion that they initially tried to lead us down the road, that my brother committed suicide in our early discussions. In our very early discussions, in a manner of which they described to us just did not sound to be within the personality or the temperament of the person that we knew. So when they released his body after they performed an autopsy to us, my mother sought to have a second forensic autopsy done so we can have a determination of cause of death, independent what York county was telling us. It’s at that point that the forensic pathologist that we had hired had reached out to us and told us that all of my organs were missing, and that he couldn’t complete his review of his body until his brain, his heart and his hope was, throat was, returned. We reached out to the, through another attorney that we had hired to find out where his organs were. And again, initially, they had told us that all his body, his his body parts and remains were returned to the family and kind of pointed the finger at our funeral director and told us to check with him, that that funeral home may have removed those organs.
So we checked with the funeral home, and after a bit of a back and forth, the York County Coroner’s Office then admitted that they had what they say was an error, and that they did have the organs, I would find that their explanation to me was a little implausible that as a coroner’s office, that you can mistakenly misplace human body parts, like pieces of mail or paper. But that’s the story that they had said, but that’s when we found out that his organs were missing. And again, we question at some point. Our forensic pathologist. He died in April, I think sometime in September or October of 2018, our forensic pathologists were given access to those organs. My family and I question that the organs that were that were actually given to the pathologist, were my brother’s remains. And to this day, we’ve requested with the York County prosecutor’s office District Attorney’s Office, that a comparison of the organs that were presented to our forensic pathologists be compared to my brother’s actual DNA.
Lee Merritt 53:03
It’s worth noting he was given access, our forensic pathologists was given access to tissue slides that we were not able to confirm or compare with actual cell information from Mr. Palmer himself. I know that we’re out of time. I’m so sorry. And we were willing to go longer. I know you have an another panel up next, as well. And as I mentioned, Mr. McDowell has invited us to make separate presentations, we look forward to participate
Niloufer Bhagwat 53:35
Within how many, how many hours of his detention, did Mr. Palmer die?
Dwayne Palmer 53:43
That’s unclear to to the family, we believe that he went to York county, would have been that Friday the 17th. And we were notified Monday, the Monday the 19th, what is Monday, the 19th of his death? So we believe he died somewhere on April 18. But we’re unclear exactly. I think the time of death was somewhere listed around, Lee could help me out, five o’clock in the morning, if I’m not mistaken. But we’re not sure from the time that he was actually physically taken into custody, up until the time he died, how many hours had transpired.
Niloufer Bhagwat 54:22
And both civil and criminal proceedings are pending?
Lee Merritt 54:30
Dwayne Palmer 54:31
Niloufer Bhagwat 54:33
Civil and criminal proceedings are both pending.
Lee Merritt 54:37
The civil court proceedings are pending and in the discovery process. There have been no criminal charges filed against these officers.
Dwayne Palmer 54:47
I just want to, there’s a discussion of qualified immunity that kind of comes up a lot in the in the news with regards to the Black Lives Matter protests. I just wanted to be clear and say that from my family’s perspective, we have received no information as regards who are the people that came into contact with my brother, what the disciplinary records were, what their work records were, you know, what type of online persona they had. And it was just clear when my brother passed, or when he was murdered, I should say, in my opinion, that they certainly tried to character assassinate him in terms of the type of information that they released. So they tried to, you know, they initially tried to lead us to believe that he committed suicide, and certainly tried to diminish his character, reputation, but yet we know nothing about the people that have come into contact with the people who came in contact with my brother.
Niloufer Bhagwat 55:48
The reality is that he died in police custody.
Lee Merritt 55:57
Yes, Your Honor.
Ria Julien 56:00
Thank you to all the witnesses. And I want to acknowledge and again, thank Mr. Dwayne Palmer, and also to thank Patrick Warren Jr, for being with us today as he’s grieving in the weeks following the death of his father. So again, I’d like to acknowledge Addie Kitchen, and her family members who have joined us today, family members of Stephen Taylor. This concludes the hearing in —
Lee Merritt 56:33
Might I say one parting word. And I know we’re pressed for time. Thank you. Thank you so much. First, I just want to thank the panel on behalf of these families representing so many more. We have been organizing within the country to share data, share policies and practices. That I appreciate the panelists, spoken towards the media and its role in vilifying the Black victim. I can say as I focus my practice, exclusively on constitutional violations by law enforcement, my practice has been targeted. Personally, I have myself been criminally prosecuted for bringing cases throughout various jurisdictions in the United States. We do need an international review for the human and civil rights violations that are ongoing within this crisis. And so we thank you.
Niloufer Bhagwat 57:30
We are grateful for your assistance. And our heartfelt condolences on both my, our behalf, both Commissioners to the families who have lost their loved ones. Their loss is irreplaceable.
Ria Julien 57:46
Thank you, Commissioner. Hearings will resume on the hour, that is shortly, with the case of Mubarak Soulemane. Thank you everyone.