TEMPLE, Texas — A Texas man who died after a struggle with police had an intellectual disability, sickle cell anemia and suffered from nerve pain that caused his legs to lock up and kick, a family member said.
Stephen Gayle died Thursday night after Temple police officers who responded to a disturbance call tried to put him in handcuffs. A Temple Police Department spokeswoman said Friday that the Texas Department of Public Safety will investigate the death and that there’s no indication the officers “acted outside the scope of their duties.”
An autopsy has been ordered to determine the cause of death.
Temple officers responded to a disturbance complaint around 7:30 p.m. Thursday near an apartment complex. They encountered Gayle, believing he was responsible for the disturbance, and said he was uncooperative and appeared intoxicated, according to a police release. During a struggle, the officers tried to handcuff Gayle and put him inside a police car, police said.
The Temple Daily Telegram reports that Gayle’s family and people who witnessed the incident are questioning the account police have given. Witnesses who spoke to the newspaper said the officers, who were white, used excessive force to arrest Gayle, who was black.
Some of the witnesses told the newspaper they saw an officer place a knee in the man’s back and punch him in the face while he was on the ground.
According to the newspaper, Gayle’s sister, Tiffany Nuckols, said he had an intellectual disability and sickle cell anemia. She also said he suffered from nerve pain in his legs that caused them to lock up and kick sometimes.
“My brother, he wouldn’t hurt nobody,” she said. “My brother was a good person.”
Wanda Nichols, a church pastor who lives in the neighborhood, said she saw Gayle walking down the street and yelling before police arrived. She said she thought he was trying to get the attention of a child who was practicing football nearby.
Police have asked for witnesses to come forward with information they might have about the incident.
Temple has about 73,000 residents and is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Austin.
Information from: Temple (Texas) Daily Telegram, http://www.tdtnews.com