A call for help for a South Carolina man suffering from mental illness resulted in him being taken to jail where he later died in sheriff’s department custody. A newly filed wrongful death lawsuit accuses sheriff’s deputies of dragging Jarvis Evans, 40, by his neck, placing him in a restraint chair, handcuffing him and tasing him several times before he was later found unresponsive.
“The way I describe him, he’s a troubled spirit with a dark side, a dark side that we all have it’s just his was more exposed than others,” said Rev, Dr. Catherine Evans of Laurens County, South Carolina, and mother of Jarvis Evans.
Rev. Evans says her son has struggled with mental illness since he was a child. “His first diagnosis was when he was 12 years old, and his first hospitalization was when he was about 12 years old,” she said.
Evans says her son’s struggles with psychiatric disorder continued into adulthood and on July 29, 2021, he experienced an episode that sadly would be his last.
“He was under the impression of a hallucination there were violent people in and out of my house trying to kill him, people who had guns and that I was helping them, and he called 911 to ask for help,” Rev. Evans said.
Rev. Evans says she and Jarvis Evans both called 911 for help the day he was having hallucinations. Like many times in the past, Rev. Evans expected first responders to take him to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Evans says Laurens County Sheriff’s deputies responded to her son experiencing a mental health crisis in the past and were familiar with his medical condition, but on July 29, 2021, things did not go as expected.
“The deputy supervisor overrode his [another deputy’s] decision and demanded he be taken to the detention center; they passed the hospital and went less than a half mile and carried him to jail,” said Rev. Evans.
Rev. Evans says her son became combative with deputies because his paranoia took hold of him. “My son was so paranoid, he didn’t recognize the police officer as a police officer in full uniform and gear, he tried his best to stay away from him and somewhat combative and the officer had to handcuff him,” she said.
Jarvis Evans was arrested by the responding deputies, taken to jail and charged with resisting arrest and breach of peace. Once Evans arrived at the jail to be booked and processed, his situation deteriorated.
“They threw him to the ground, put a spit bag on, then picked him up and moved him to a metal restraining chair, handcuffed him with his hands behind his back in the chair, handcuffed his legs to the chair, put a diagonal harness over his body which was on very tight,” said Rosalyn Henderson-Myers, the attorney representing the estate of Jarvis Evans in the wrongful death lawsuit.
Bodycam video shows Jarvis Evans being restrained and tased multiple times before being wheeled into a jail cell at 11:06 p.m.. The lawsuit, filed on Aug. 15, 2022, alleges Evans did not receive any medical attention while at the jail before he later was found unresponsive in his cell at 2:59 a.m. the following morning.
Henderson-Myers says the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office has not given her or Evans’ family an explanation for why he, died in their custody, but claimed the 40-year-old was being watched every 15 minutes. “They said they were watching him every 15-minutes in their reports, but that is not true,” Henderson-Myers said of the sheriff’s office claims.
Henderson-Myers says Evans’ autopsy determined his death was an accident, attributing it to a drug overdose. The attorney accuses deputies of not following proper protocol in how they used their taser on Jarvis Evans.
“Our Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had determined the use of a taser should not ever be used to put a person into compliance,” Henderson-Myers said.
Despite claims made by Rev. Evans deputies used excessive force on her son, Henderson-Myers, who is also a sitting state representative, says South Carolina does not have laws on the books for police excessive force meaning the family cannot bring a civil suit in state court against deputies with that accusation; however, they can resort to federal law.
“There was definitely excessive force that was used on Jarvis but there’s not a statute of that in South Carolina so the officers cannot be charged upon that statute, but we certainly can do so in federal law,” Henderson-Myers said.
Atlanta Black Star requested more information from the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office on what happened the day Jarvis Evans died and if the Sheriff had any comment on the allegations in the wrongful death lawsuit filed against his department, but those requests were not answered.
Henderson-Myers says the wrongful death lawsuit is for an unspecified amount of money at this time. Rev. Evans hopes the lawsuit prompts federal authorities to investigate the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office handling of her son’s case.
“We are requesting a federal investigation into the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office practices and policies, thirdly, there needs to be a statute on the books that addresses excessive force by police officers,” said Rev. Evans.
Jarvis Evans was a father to five boys ranging in age from 1 to 17 years old. Rev. Evans hopes a successful legal win in her son’s case helps bring about closure for their family.