Monday, September 24, 2012

Suspect's Death In Police Custody Ruled As Homicide In Revised Ruling By Milwaukee County Medical Examiner

Derek Williams in police squad begging for help.

Latest revised medical examiner's homicide ruling reopens death investigation into police negligence to rendering medical assistance to a suspect while in custody.

By H. Nelson Goodson
September 24, 2012

Milwaukee, WI - The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office has revised their July 6, 2011 death determination of Derek Williams, 22, from a natural cause contributed by sickle cell complications while in Milwaukee police custody to a homicide. A ruling by a Assistant Medical Examiner Cristopher Poulos in 2011 indicated the examiner failed to review all of the evidence, including a police squad video showing Williams suffering problems from breathing before ruling that Williams had died from sickle cell complications. It was determined later, that Williams didn't have sickle cell disease.
The video showed Williams begging for medical attention after repeatedly telling an officer he couldn't breathe and was suffocating in the rear seat of a police vehicle. The officer told Williams that he was playing games, according to the audio in the video. 
The Williams case was reviewed after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contacted Assistant Medical Examiner Poulos of new evidence and a video released through an open records request that was excluded in 2011 to determine the death of Williams.
The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office has reopen the Williams death investigation. Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn doesn't believe an officer would be charged in Williams homicide.
In July 2011, Williams was arrested for attempted robbery shortly after being released from jail on a warrant for a child support violation. He ran and fled from police on N. Holton and E. Center, but was arrested by Officers Patrick Coe and Richard Ticcioni, who were two of five officers responding to the call. 
Williams was placed on Officer Jeffrey Cline's squad who initially responded to the call with Officer Zachary Thoms.
Williams, who is Black complained to Officer Cline that he couldn't breathe and the officer opened the windows. Then Cline left to finish his robbery investigation, while Officer Jason Bleichwehl questioned Williams in the squad. 
Williams had complained about his breathing problem for at least fifteen minutes before slumping over and stopped breathing. Officer Bleichwehl attempted to give CPR to Williams, but failed to resuscitate Williams.

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