Calls For Video Related To John Neville’s Death Persist

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Above photo: Screen shot of Black Lives Matter protest in North Carolina, Tony Ndege speaking, July 2020 WXII, Ch 12. See video here.

Protesters made new demands of Forsyth County elected officials Tuesday, calling for a general increase in transparency from county leaders, and specifically, the release of video pertaining to the death of an inmate at the Forsyth County Detention Center.

“We’re fighting for truth, justice, dignity, humanity, economic justice, social justice,” said Tony Ndege, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Winston-Salem. “We stand against state violence, but we also stand for social and economic justice.”

Demonstrations began in Winston-Salem weeks ago and groups like Black Lives Matter Winston-Salem say they plan to continue calling for change. While the group wants fairness and equality for the entire community, its demonstrations are largely focused on advocating for minority communities.

“Those are the communities that tend to be under attack first,” he said.

On Tuesday, about a dozen demonstrators met outside the Forsyth Government Center to outline four new demands:

  • For the county to end its relationship with Wellpath, formerly Correct Care Solutions, the contracted medical services provider for the detention center
  • For law makers to make adjustments to HB 972, a 2016 law that qualifies recordings made by law enforcement as not being considered a matter of public record
  • For the Forsyth Superior Court to release video pertaining to the jail-related death of John Neville after a medical emergency in December 2019.
  • And for a federal investigation into Neville’s death to be conducted

On July 8, District Attorney Jim O’Neill announced five former Forsyth County Detention Center officers and a nurse had been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with Neville’s death.

The Detention Center officers have been identified as Sarah Poole, Cpl. Edward Roussel, Christopher Stamper, Sgt. Lovette Williams and Antonio Woodley. The nurse has been identified as Michelle Heughins.

On July 9, WXII 12 News obtained a copy of the autopsy report for Neville. The medical examiner ruled Neville died from a brain injury due to cardiac arrest, due to asphyxia during a prone restraint — which is being restrained in the facedown position.

Demonstrators on Tuesday afternoon gathered outside of the government center and were initially denied entrance to the center by security guards inside. The group was eventually allowed inside for a silent protest.

“It has been the whole gamut of emotions,” Ndege said of the weeks-long efforts in hopes of change. “It has been heart-wrenching. It has been frustrating, but it has also been amazingly inspiring.”

Hours later, the Neville family released a statement saying “after considerable deliberation, discussion and much prayer” they supported the release of the video pertaining to their fathers’ death.

The statement reads:

“After considerable deliberation, discussion and much prayer the Neville family has decided that it is time for the public to see the video depicting the last moments of their father’s life. While they initially hoped to keep the matter private, it is clear that will never be possible. They are appreciative that all of the involved agencies have been willing to honor their wishes to this point. The family members have not made this decision in a vacuum. They are aware that what happened to their father has happened to countless other sons, brothers, uncles, cousins, fathers, and grandfathers. While by law they do not have any standing to support or oppose the decision that will be made on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, they feel it is necessary for all of the stakeholders, protestors, and the community at large to know that they will not stand in the way of full transparency.”

On Wednesday, WXII 12 News and several other North Carolina media outlets will be participating in a hearing calling for the release of the jail video related to Neville’s death. Under North Carolina state law, the video is not public record and can only be released with a judge’s approval.

“I do feel a lot of hope,” Ndege said.

The hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m.