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'I can't breathe,' dying Oklahoma man tells police. Officer responds: 'I don't care.'

Restrained in the grass for roughly 13 minutes, 42-year-old Derrick Scott eventually became unresponsive.

'I can't breathe,' dying Oklahoma man tells police. Officer responds: 'I don't care.'
Cover Image Source: Oklahoma City Police Department

Trigger warning: This report contains descriptions of police brutality and racism that readers may find disturbing

Newly released body camera footage of the death of a Black man in Oklahoma City police custody last year echoed a now-familiar cry: "I can't breathe." While the words became one of the loudest rallying cries at worldwide protests against police brutality following George Floyd's death last month, on May 20, 2020, it was 42-year-old Derrick Scott who said them in the final moments of his life. In body camera footage of Scott's arrest released this week by the Oklahoma City Police Department, he can be heard asking repeatedly for his medicine and saying that he can’t breathe, to which one of the police officers involved—Jarred Tipton—replies: "I don't care."



"You can breathe just fine," another officer responds a few minutes later. According to NBC News, Scott—who becomes unresponsive several minutes into the footage—was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. The cause of death was listed as a collapsed lung in an autopsy. Oklahoma City police Capt. Larry Withrow said in a statement that the encounter between OCPD officers and Scott began after officers were called to an area south of downtown Oklahoma City shortly before 2 p.m. by someone who claimed that a Black man was arguing with people and brandishing a gun.



In the footage, Scott is seen putting his hands up and running from the officers, two of whom catch up to him and pin him in the grass while trying to force his hands behind his back. One of them placed her knee between his shoulder blades while her colleague straddled Scott's back. The footage shows one of the officers removing a handgun from Scott's pocket. Restrained in the grass for roughly 13 minutes, he eventually became unresponsive, reports The Washington Post.



Although an officer tried to administer CPR and paramedics rendered aid on the scene, Scott died in the hospital about an hour later due to a collapsed right lung with physical restraint, recent methamphetamine use, asthma, bullous emphysema and atherosclerotic heart disease listed as contributing factors in the autopsy. The body camera footage of Scott's arrest was released Monday night by the police department after Black Lives Matter organizers included it in a list of demands to city leaders amid protests earlier this month. It is one of many in-custody deaths or beatings by police that are being revisited following Floyd's death with demonstrators demanding better police transparency and accountability in cases of wrongdoing.



Despite the horrifying scenes captured in the camera, Oklahoma City officials continued to defend the actions of the officers involved. "This guy runs from the police. He’s got a 90 percent occluded major artery in his heart," said Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater. "I mean, he’s just a perfect candidate to die when you’ve got meth in your system and those kinds of physical ailments and then you fight with police. [The officers] didn’t do anything wrong at all." While Oklahoma City Police Capt. Larry Withrow acknowledged at a news conference on Tuesday that while police "frequently" hear suspects crying, "I can’t breathe," he refused to condemn Tipton's response of "I don’t care."



"It's not uncommon for people, when you're struggling with them, when you're trying to get him under control, to say, 'I can't breathe.' You hear that frequently," Withrow said. "If they're still struggling and they're still fighting with you and they're talking with you, it makes you wonder, are they really having difficulty breathing? Or are they just trying to get away? In reviewing the video myself, I see that the officers are using the academy taught techniques, the control and defensive tactics techniques that are taught in order to offer them a reasonable amount of control and the least likelihood of injuring a suspect. I don't know that there's any more they could have done to monitor the suspect or ensure his health."


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