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Charlotte Area

Man's Death From 'Medical Emergency' In CMPD Custody Prompts State Investigation

Nick de la Canal
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney addressed reporters at a Friday news conference.

North Carolina's State Bureau of Investigation will review the case of a Charlotte man who died after suffering a medical emergency and losing conciousness while in police custody, bringing added scrutiny to a case that has already prompted a internal investigation by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

Police say Harold Easter, 41, died on Sunday, Jan. 26 after suffering a "medical emergency" and losing conciousness three days earlier at the police station on Beatties Ford Road.

He had been arrested on Jan. 23 around 11:40 a.m. after police said they witnessed a possible drug transaction near the intersection of Whisnant and Burton streets, and stopped a vehicle Easter was driving a short time later.

Officers charged Easter with possession of cocaine and marijuana, and transported him to the police station on Beatties Ford Road, where he had a medical emergency during arrest processing. Officers  adminstered medical aid and called for an ambulance, which rushed him to a nearby hospital where he died three days later.

So far, police have not given details as to what may have caused Easter's medical emergency.

At a press conference Friday, Police Chief Kerr Putney said officers had not used any kind of force on Easter. Putney said that after consulting with Easter's family and the Mecklenburg Country District Attorney, investigation of Easter's death would be turned over the State Bureau of Investigation.

The criminal investigation will include interviewing the officers involved and determining the sequence of events leading up to the death.

When the state's investigation is finished, its findings will be turned over to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney, who will determine whether any criminal charges should be filed.

The police department will also conduct its own investigation to determine whether any internal directives were violated. 

Five officers — Sgt. Nicholas Vincent and officers Brentley Vinson, Michael Benfield, Michael Joseph and Shon Sheffield — were placed on administrative leave during the internal investigation, which the department says is standard procedure. 

Vinson is the officer who shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in 2016. The shooting led to days of unrest and protests in Charlotte. In that case, Vinson was later cleared of wrongdoing by the police department and the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office. 

At Friday's news conference, Putney said the public will likely have to wait for the investigation to conclude before learning more details of the incident.

"This is not 'C.S.I.'" Putney said. "It won't be wrapped up in an hour. The problem is [investigations] take time."