Recently released video shows Charlotte’s emergency responders took close to a half hour to respond to police after they reported a former HBCU football star was in trauma.
The footage was released only after a court order mandated the city to oblige a petition from the man’s family.
On Thursday, Feb. 2, Charlotte announced the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s (CMPD) release of body-worn camera video of the interaction between its officers, first responders, and Jovontay Avery Williams, 32, in the early morning hours before he died on June 13, 2022.
Williams attended Johnson C. Smith University and played football for the school. He also was invited to try out in 2015 for the Carolina Panthers NFL team, according to the News Maven.
According to the release, officers responded to a 911 call after a woman said she heard shooting going on outside of her home.
“The caller, who was hiding in her closet, stated that someone may be attempting to break into her home,” the city says. “Officers responded to the call for service and located a shell casing and signs of a disturbance at the caller’s residence.”
The footage shows officers at the woman’s doorstep and acknowledging empty bullet casings on her front porch. They are later told that the person they are looking for is on a different house porch further down the road.
Bodycam video shows the officers with their weapons out, but once they approach the house where Williams is, they repeatedly ask him to show them his hands, carefully following a script to make sure he hears them and understands their commands.
Officers located Williams at 2:09 a.m.
According to the release, “Officers observed Williams attempting to break into another home in their presence and used the ‘soft, empty hands’ approach as detailed in CMPD’s response to resistance policy to take him into custody.”
Williams is heard moaning and never complies with the officer’s request, and as a result, the former football player is taken down and cuffed. Immediately officers say, “Yeah, he is stiffening up like a board.”
The video shows the officers putting something under his head while he is lying on his side. Williams says, “Get me up,” in one frame, and the officer responds to him, “We will get you up in a second.”
Williams says, “Bruh, you an a–hole.”
He then yells, “I’mma die. I’m about to die. This is abuse. I’m about to die.”
Viewers hear Williams say, “I feel lightheaded.” He also tells officers through his delirium that he is seeing double and getting dizzy before saying again, “I’m about to die.”
In one frame, Williams says he “can’t breathe” and is twisting as officers restrain him on his side. One officer replied, “Yes, you can.”
He says, “You cops are dead wrong. If I die, it is on you.”
Officers called for the local EMT service, MEDIC, to come because “they realized the signs of medical distress” in the handcuffed Williams.
“Officers went from dealing with a shooting suspect to dealing with someone in a medical emergency, and I commend them for being able to transition quickly and manage the suspect as a medical patient in that situation,” said CMPD Police Chief Johnny Jennings.
Police found drugs on the premises close to where he was located and believed he was high when they first engaged him.
As they waited for medical professionals to arrive, one officer seemed visibly disturbed at how long it was taking looking at his watch.
It took emergency responders 22 minutes to come, according to reports. The call was submitted and originally treated as a “non-emergency,” which was part of the reason for the delay.
Charlotte Fire Department and MEDIC arrived and asked for Williams to be uncuffed. Then, after noticing he was in crisis, the first responders worked on Williams for about five minutes before carrying him to a stretcher and rushing him to the hospital with “life-threatening injuries.” MEDIC transported him to Atrium Health University, where after observation he was moved to Atrium Health Cabarrus, a facility that was able to give him more “intensive care.”
He was not taken to the hospital by MEDIC until 2:52 a.m.
Hours after his first engagement with the officers, around 10 a.m., Williams, an All-Defensive Football Player of the Year for two consecutive years at JCSU, was pronounced dead.
While Williams died at the hospital, he was still under arrest and the incident is classified as an in-custody death.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation investigated the incident and Williams’ subsequent death, turning over their discovery to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office. The district attorney’s office declined to file criminal charges against the CMPD or its officers, saying there was no evidence that police violated any laws in the detainment.
At the same time, CMPD Internal Affairs conducted a “parallel investigation and concluded that there were no violations of CMPD policy, clearing the officers of any wrongdoing.”
Charlotte Fire Chief Reginald Johnson released a formal statement.
He said, “We take the death of Mr. Williams very seriously and are exploring thoroughly,” adding, “Every day, members of Charlotte Fire bravely protect the residents of Charlotte, the place we call home. We are dedicated to our community in service and are resolute in our mission of saving lives.”
Mecklenburg EMS Agency Executive Director John Peterson also released a statement, saying its “existence is to serve our patients with compassion” and that it is committed to the Medical Incident Review process they are undergoing, offering the agency’s “deepest condolences” to Williams’ loved ones and family.
Police also say they put Williams into a “recovery position,” turning him onto his stomach at times and then placing him back into that position. This practice, according to CMPD, offers “optimal breathing and safety of Williams and officers.”
Williams’ mother, Christa Williams, was not buying it, according to WSOC-TV, saying, “Well, they’re saying one thing and we’re seeing something else. They’re saying it wasn’t a problem. They turned him over, but no one offered my son help. He asked for help. Why did you all not just pick him up.”
“He’s telling you that he’s hurting,” Christa Williams says as she breaks down the footage that took over half a year and a judge’s order to release. “I’m just not understanding. I’m not understanding that the fire department was there. EMS didn’t come until later.”
A Critical Incident Briefing video was also released, giving a step-by-step analysis of what the CMPD believes happened based on their review.
A full medical examiner’s report and toxicology report, done on Williams almost eight months ago, is still pending, and “MEDIC and the Charlotte Fire Department (CFD) are currently engaged in an official Medical Incident Review process regarding Williams’ on-scene care and transport.”
Williams’ mother has launched a GoFundMe to help her with legal expenses. She is in the process of hiring a private investigator, a new attorney, and activist, John Barnett.