weather icon Clear

Las Vegas police show bodycam video of in-custody death

Updated March 8, 2019 - 12:08 am

Las Vegas police released body camera footage Thursday of officers’ struggle with a man who died in custody last weekend.

Roy Scott, 65, died Sunday morning after he was held on the ground by police for several minutes and handcuffed. Scott had called police at 3:09 a.m. to report that three people, one armed with a saw, were trying to get into his apartment at 3601 El Conlon Ave., near Sahara Avenue and Valley View Boulevard.

Two officers arrived and tried to handcuff Scott and search him for additional weapons after he had dropped a pipe and handed over a knife, Deputy Chief Chris Jones told news media Thursday.

The officers and Scott struggled on the ground while they tried to cuff him. At some point after they did, Scott appeared to be talking less, and his breathing became labored, Jones said. He was taken to Valley Hospital Medical Center, where he died, the Clark County coroner’s office said. His cause and manner of death were pending.

Jones said the officers, 29-year-old Theodore Huntsman and 27-year-old Kyle Smith, were trained to handle crisis situations and used “a minimal amount of force.” He added that Scott showed signs of drug use and had been suffering from a condition called excited delirium, which often includes sweating and increased body temperature.

“I think these officers acted appropriately,” Jones said.

Smith and Huntsman didn’t find anybody outside his door and eventually coaxed Scott out of his apartment.

A segment of footage from one of the officers played at the news conference showed Scott telling officers he was paranoid schizophrenic. They asked to search him, and he asked to be put into a car instead.

“People are after me, man,” Scott told police.

Officers told him no; they could only assist him if he cooperated with police.

“You’re fine. We’re out here to help you, OK?” one officer told Scott.

“I’m not fine. I’m not fine,” he replied.

He asked if he could take his shirt off, reaching for a jacket zipper, but one officer told him not to as the other officer began holding Scott’s arms behind his back, the footage showed.

“Why are y’all doing this to me?” Scott asked as he began to pull away. He went to the ground, and officers tried to restrain him.

Scott yelled “Please, sir, leave me alone” multiple times as officers held him while he lay on his back. A neighbor leaned over and tried speaking to Scott as officers tried to hold him.

A voice in the background could be heard saying “Roy, take it easy” as Scott continued to ask officers to leave him alone.

After a couple of minutes Huntsman and Smith rolled him over, with one officer placing his knee on Scott’s back and a short time later on his head, the footage showed.

After officers had cuffed him and were done searching him, they rolled Scott onto his side into what Jones called “the recovery position,” which he said helps people breathe more easily. The segment ended shortly after Smith and Huntsman moved him onto the sidewalk in an apparent effort to ensure he didn’t hit his head.

“Relax, man. We’re trying to help you. You’re OK,” one officer said.

The footage didn’t show medical help arrive, but police left Scott in handcuffs until an ambulance came, police spokesman Aden OcampoGomez said. Officers often leave handcuffs on someone who resisted arrest until paramedics come, he said.

Police asked for an ambulance at 3:42 a.m. for a cut on Scott’s head, Jones said. They asked for paramedics to expedite at 3:48, and the ambulance showed up at 3:55, Jones said.

On Wednesday, Scott’s family viewed footage from both officers’ cameras at Metro headquarters. Scott’s relatives were angry and tearful after watching the footage of his last moments.

Dontee Hudson, Scott’s son-in-law, walked out of the building during the first of the two videos.

“I just couldn’t take it,” said Hudson, weeping in the parking lot Wednesday afternoon.

The officers weren’t “mean” and didn’t “beat up” Scott, Hudson said, though he thought officers “just didn’t handle the situation properly like professionals.”

About 15 minutes later, Hudson’s wife, Rochelle Scott, walked out of the building wiping tears from her face.

“I have never seen nothing like that in my life,” said Rochelle, Roy Scott’s daughter.

His family members said Scott had stopped moving at some point while in handcuffs. They were frustrated with the fact he wasn’t released from handcuffs prior to medical help arriving. Police had checked for a pulse multiple times but did not remove the restraints, Rochelle Scott said.

“He laid there and died in handcuffs,” she said.

Rebecca Switzer, Scott’s sister-in-law, said Wednesday that one video was “way worse” to watch than the other, but it wasn’t clear which of the two videos was played at Thursday’s news conference.

“He begged them” to remove his handcuffs, she said.

Metro had come into contact with Scott about two months ago, spokeswoman Carla Alston said. Rochelle Scott spoke of an incident earlier this year with her father and police, but further details weren’t immediately available.

Smith and Huntsman were hired in 2017 and work in Metro’s Spring Valley Area Command. They have been placed on paid administrative leave while police investigate.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.