- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

An Army combat soldier who checked into the El Paso County Jail for a two-day DWI sentence in 2012 repeatedly screamed “I can’t breathe” as he was being pinned down by officers before his abrupt death, according to newly released video.

Video obtained by a local Fox News affiliate shows Sgt. James Brown, an active duty solider stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, having some sort of violent episode in his solitary jail cell during the June 2012 incident. Several officers dressed in riot gear go into his cell to subdue him.

As at least five officers are holding Brown on the ground, he repeatedly shrieks “I can’t breathe.” His coughing is audible and at one point he says, “I’m choking on my blood.”

The video shows officers carry Brown into another room where they cover his face with a spit mask and inject him with two shots of a sedative, a local ABC affiliate reported. Officers eventually give him a small amount of water after he repeatedly begs for it. He then collapses to the floor and appears to have severe difficulty breathing.

The video then shows officers carrying an unconscious Brown, now nude, back to his cell. Emergency medical officials were then called, 35 minutes after the incident began, but it was too late. Brown was declared dead a short time later, the ABC affiliate reported.

“When a 26-year-old man checks into jail for a court imposed sentence on a Friday, and he leaves Sunday in a casket, something went horribly wrong there,” Brown’s family attorney B.J. Crow told Fox News.

Details about what exactly caused Brown’s death are still unclear. He had no criminal record, and the toxicology report showed he had no illegal drugs in his body, ABC reported.

Brown reportedly suffered post traumatic stress disorder from serving two tours of combat duty in Iraq. Mr. Crow believes he also suffered from a sickle cell crisis, which is a usually dormant condition triggered by dehydration and stress, the station said.

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office blames Brown’s death on natural causes.

Mr. Brown’s death was an unfortunate tragedy,” Sheriff Richard Wiles said in a statement. “The sheriff’s office has conducted a thorough review of the facts surrounding Mr. Brown’s death and, based upon all the evidence obtained, determined that his death was caused by a preexisting medical condition. The specific evidence cannot be discussed because of pending litigation.”

Brown’s family is suing for damages, claiming police used excessive force and failed to provide proper medical attention.

“He was bleeding out the ears, the nose, the mouth, his kidney’s shut down, his blood pressure dropped to a very dangerous level, and his liver shut down,” Mr. Crow told the Fox affiliate.

The federal civil case is expected to go to trial in October.

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