In 2016, Lamont Perry died in police custody after being chased in the woods in Wadesboro, N.C. An autopsy showed he had swelling of the brain and a fracture of his leg.
According to a report on moguldom.com, it was reported that the bottoms of the pants of several of the officers involved were soaked in blood. Yet the state medical examiner attributed Perry’s death, in large part to sickle cell.
About one in 13 Black or African-American babies is born with a sickle cell trait, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sickle cell anemia is an inherited red blood cell disorder in which there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.
Law enforcement officials have been using this fact to blame the deaths of Black people in custody on sickle cell trait rather than on police brutality, New York Times reported.
Perry was one of several cases where U.S. pathologists have been quick to rule in-custody deaths of Black people an accident or natural occurrence caused by sickle cell trait.
While police departments are using sickle cell trait as the medical scapegoat, some doctors disagree with the practice.
“You can’t put the blame on sickle cell trait when there is a knee on the neck or when there is a chokehold or the person is hogtied,” said Dr. Roger A. Mitchell Jr., the former chief medical examiner for the District of Columbia and now chairman of pathology at the Howard University College of Medicine. “You can’t say, ‘Well, he’s fragile.’ No, that becomes a homicide.”
Many of Twitter were shocked by the NYT report.
“What the absolute fck”, Wild & Fluorescent @ShaylaRacquel tweeted.
Here are the facts.
Lawyers for Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer convicted of murdering George Floyd, claimed sickle cell trait played a part in the unarmed man’s death. The medical examiner noted the curved cells and said Floyd had had SCT. The autopsy, however, indicated that it had not contributed to his death, and there was no evidence the cells had sickled before he died.
The New York Times has discovered at least 47 instances over the past 25 years in which medical examiners, law enforcement officials or defenders of accused officers claimed SCT was a cause or major factor in deaths of Black people in custody. Fifteen such deaths have occurred since 2015.
In about two-thirds of the cases, the person who died had been forcefully restrained by the police, pepper-sprayed, or shocked with Tasers.
Medical experts say sickle cell trait has caused deaths in rare cases of extreme overexertion, especially among military trainees and college athletes, The New York Times reported. Three of the in-custody deaths investigated by The Times involved people who were exercising vigorously in jail yards or running hard before they collapsed and no police force had been used.
The Times found cases of SCT being used as an inaccurate cause of death in dozens of cases going back as far as the 1970s.
The Times looked at more than 6,000 pages of records related to the deaths of Black people in law enforcement custody in which sickle cell trait was raised as a cause or contributing factor.
In the past 25 years, 19 cases of police deaths involved Black people who died after being restrained in ways that could hinder breathing.