The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) is launching a probe into the death of Harold Easter, who died on Jan. 26 after passing out at a Charlotte police substation and being rushed to the hospital.
Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather made the decision to turn the case over to the SBI after consulting with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney and the family of the victim. Under state law, Easter’s family has the right to ask for an independent investigation of Easter’s death.
The family has asked for “transparency,” the Charlotte Observer reported. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are conducting a separate internal investigation.
Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather
Putney told reporters that Easter suffered a medical emergency and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Putney did not give details of Easter’s condition but said that physical force was not used to subdue Easter. Easter's family has said that doctors told them that Easter had suffered a heart attack while inside a police substation. One report said Easter was being booked and interviewed when he fell unconscious.
“This is not easy,” the Charlotte Post reported Putney as saying.
Five Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers were put on administrative leave during the internal investigation, as is the usual procedure. One of them, Officer Brentley Vinson, shot and killed Keith Scott in 2016. Scott’s death set off a three-day period of demonstrations and unrest. One person died as a result. Vincent was cleared of wrongdoing after an investigation.
State police will interview all the people involved and establish a timeline of events. The results of the investigation will then be turned over to the district attorney, who will determine if charges will be filed. CMPD will determine whether its officers followed department policy and procedures.
Easter, who was 41, was arrested on Jan. 23 and charged with the possession of cocaine and marijuana. Police said they had observed a suspected drug deal near Whisnant and Bourbon Streets before Easter was arrested, the Charlotte Post reported.