Authorities say Jameek Lowery, the New Jersey man who recorded frantic video from inside a Paterson police station earlier this year, died from an adverse reaction triggered by the ingestion of acute N-ethylpentylone, a form of “bath salts.”
On Monday, the Passiac County Prosecutor’s Office ruled Lowery’s death accidental, and not the result of excessive force by police.
In a statement, county prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes said the state medical examiner’s office determined that ingestion of the drugs “coupled with pre-existing medical conditions triggered a adverse physical reaction, including multiple organ failure [and] cardiac arrest” that ultimately led to Lowery’s death.
“The timing of Mr. Lowery’s death is an indication of the conclusion of this reaction and not as a result of any action by the police or fire department personnel,” Valdes continued.
On Jan. 5, Lowery recorded frantic video of himself stumbling into Paterson police headquarters begging for help and complaining of paranoia, alleging everyone — including officers — were out to kill him. He initially told police that he had taken too much of the drug ecstasy.
Hours later, the father of three was taken to a local hospital, where he died just two days later.
“They’re try to kill me … he right there,” Lowery, sweating profusely and foaming at the mouth, says in the video streamed on Facebook Live. “I’m just paranoid. That’s it. I’m not touching nobody. I swear to God.”
At one point in the clip, the New Jersey man begs officers “not to shoot” and then alludes to his own demise, saying: “If I die in an hour or two, they did it. I didn’t touch them at all.”
Lowery’s family has rejected the latest findings, calling the medical examiner’s report a “cover-up” of sorts.
“It’s bullshit,” said Lowery’s mother, Patrice King, according to the Paterson Times. “We know he was murdered.”
Lowery’s sister, Jamilyha Lowery, told News 12 New Jersey that the family is still awaiting the results of a private autopsy they commissioned. She also said authorities have yet to return any of her brother’s belongings from that night, including his cellphone.
Lowery’s death sparked days of protest in Paterson and fueled claims that the 27-year-old had died as a result of police brutality. The man’s relatives and outraged locals suspected he’d been beaten by police and emergency personnel who transported Lowery to a hospital after his multiple calls to 911.
At the time, authorities said Lowery was suffering complications from severe spinal meningitis, a claim that was criticized by his family.
Officials accompanied Lowery from the police station to an ambulance, at which point he reportedly became combative by “striking, kicking and/or spitting” on Paterson police officers. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, officers hit Lowery several times in an attempt to get him under control.
The victim’s family claims he suffered unexplained injuries, including a broken cheekbone and fractured eye socket upon arriving to the hospital, where he lost consciousness. However, the prosecutor’s office pointed to hospital records showing Lowery didn’t suffer any “acute trauma,” but did have to be subdued by officers who “used physical force and compliance holds” to secure him in the ambulance.
Zellie Thomas, a community activist and educator in Paterson, expressed deep disappointment with the findings and echoed the family’s claims of a cover up.
“Jameek went on FB live before his death,” Thomas tweeted Monday. “The investigation is over and the Passaic County Prosecutor will still not give Jameek’s cellphone to the family. The cover up is real in Paterson.”
The local teacher likened the incident to that of Eric Garner, where officials claimed the New York man’s obesity and ongoing health issues caused his death rather than the department-banned choke hold he was placed in.
“It’s the same with Jameek Lowery,” he told Atlanta Black Star. “We know that bath salts didn’t kill him. It was police brutality.
“It’s just really horrible how they’re trying to cover this up and not attribute the violence to his death at all,” he added. “The entire community … is upset over these findings.”
Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh issued a statement expressing his condolences to Lowery’s family after the release of the findings.
“The conclusion of the investigation at this time does not bar the Passaic County’s Prosecutor’s Office or any other law enforcement agency from reviewing additional evidence that may arise in the future,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Lowery family.”
Watch more in the video below.