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‘You’re Breathing, Because You’re Talking…’: Video Shows Black Man Saying ‘I Can’t Breathe’ As Guards Pinned Him to the Floor Soon Before His Death

Video footage showing the moments that led to the death of John Neville, a Black inmate who stopped breathing at a Winston-Salem, North Carolina, jail, has been released to the public for the first time.

Neville, a 56-year-old father of five, stopped breathing in detention at the Forsyth County Jail in December. A judge recently decided to release 40 minutes of body camera footage showing officers restraining Neville in his cell in an encounter that led to involuntary manslaughter charges being filed against the jail personnel.

Neville, who was being held for pending assault charges, reportedly fell from his top bunk to the concrete floor of his cell. Several jail detention officers and a nurse responded to the medical emergency.

Officers told Neville, who was “disoriented and confused,” that he had suffered a seizure.

“You’re going to be all right buddy. All right? You’re going to be all right. Having a little bit of a medical episode, here,” a corrections officer said.

(Photo: Forsyth County Jail video screenshot)

As the nurse attempted to take Neville’s blood pressure, he became increasingly agitated. One officer used his knee to restrain him.

A spit mask was placed over Neville‘s face and he was transferred to another room in a restraint chair. In the observation cell, he was pinned to the mattress and restrained by five officers as he pleaded for help and repeated that he couldn’t breathe.

“I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe, please!” cried Neville.

“John, will you stop so I can get these off?” said an officer as officers attempted to remove Neville’s handcuffs.

As Neville continued to say that couldn’t breathe, an officer responded: “You’re breathing, because you’re talking, you’re yelling, you’re moving.”

When the key needed to unlock and remove Neville’s handcuffs broke, bolt cutters were used to break the cuffs as officers continued to pin his body against the floor of the cell.

Eventually, officers finished removing the cuffs and left the room. According to the police report, the nurse did not see Neville breathing at this time. He was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and died two days later.

The medical examiner found that Neville died of a brain injury and cardiopulmonary arrest due to “positional and compressional asphyxia during prone restraint.”

“I apologize for what happened that day,” Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough has said of the incident.

Neville’s family has filed a lawsuit against Forsyth County and Wellpath, the company that provides medical services to the jail.

Five officers and the nurse involved face charges of involuntary manslaughter.

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