Solicitor: Data dump prolongs jail death investigation

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The South Carolina prosecutor investigating the jail death of a mentally ill Black man said Wednesday that the sheriff’s office has finally turned over more information in the case, nearly seven months after the incident occurred.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said Wednesday that Charleston County Sheriff’s Office has handed over 162 gigabytes of information on the detention deputies involved in the Jan. 5 death of Jamal Sutherland.

The prosecutor added that the agency provided the information after months of requests from Wilson’s office, the State Law Enforcement Division and the FBI.

Sutherland, 31, died in the Charleston County jail shortly after deputies forced him to the ground and repeatedly used stun guns and pepper spray on him when he refused to leave his cell for a court appearance. He had been booked the day before on a misdemeanor charge after officers arrested him while investigating a fight at a mental health and substance abuse center. His death gained national attention after county officials released video of the incident months later.

Wilson said she met with Sutherland’s family members and their attorneys to let them know that the new information, which contains hours of video and hundreds of documents, has already yielded some evidence relevant to the investigation.

“They share in my disappointment and concern over delays by the Sheriff’s Office,” Wilson said in a statement. “Because these latest items are necessary for the expert’s review, and the expert’s opinions are critical in my analysis, I will not make a final decision until we thoroughly vet this latest information.”

The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Two deputies involved in the case have since been fired. Protesters in Charleston have called for Wilson to charge the deputies with murder or recuse herself from the case.

Wilson’s statement comes the same day as activists with the Racial Justice Network doubled down on those calls, asking the state Supreme Court to appoint a different prosecutor to the case, news outlets reported.

The solicitor had previously said she would decide whether to file charges by the end of June before announcing that she needed more time to investigate.