A county prosecutor in Virginia won't seek criminal charges against police officers who used stun guns multiple times on a black man before his death, she said in a report released Tuesday.
Halifax County Commonwealth's Attorney Tracy Quackenbush Martin said there's no evidence to suggest Linwood Lambert Jr.'s 2013 death was directly caused by the officers' repeated use of their stun guns or that the officers were criminally negligent when they chose not to bring him into the hospital.
"Because the officers did not appreciate Mr. Lambert's need for emergency medical care, their removal of him from the hospital, although heart-rending, was reasonable," Martin said.
Videos released last year show South Boston Police Officers Tiffany Bratton, Clifton Mann and Travis Clay using their stun guns repeatedly on Lambert after they took him into custody for a mental health evaluation on May 4, 2013.
After they arrived at the hospital, Lambert kicked out the cruiser's window and ran toward the emergency room doors with his hands handcuffed behind his back. As he ran away from the officers, they shocked him repeatedly, even after he fell to the ground.
Instead of taking him to the hospital, the officers took Lambert to jail, saying he was arrested for disorderly conduct and property damage. They shocked him again when he's was put back in the cruiser, restrained in the back seat.
Lambert told the officers that he used cocaine and the medical examiner's office concluded that the drug, and the "cocaine-induced excited delirium" that followed, caused his death.
"Having researched the medical examiner's conclusions and finding substantial research supporting them, I have no good faith basis to conclude that the Commonwealth could successfully prove that the Tasers were a direct cause of Mr. Lambert's death," Martin said.
Martin was assisted in her investigation by Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring, who said the officers' use of stun guns when Lambert was in the backseat of the patrol car was "unreasonable." But the officers were not "trying to punish, torture or gratuitously hurt Mr. Lambert," he Herring said.
"There is not a scintilla of evidence that they drive-stunned him with the intent to main, disfigure, disable or kill," he said.
Lambert's sister, Gwendolyn Smalls, told The Associated Press after meeting with Martin on Monday that her decision not to seek charges is "heartbreaking." She said it shows how law enforcement always gets away "with the crimes they commit behind the badge."
"It took three years to get exactly where we began on May 4, 2013," Smalls said. "These officers can walk around the streets after what they did to my brother.
The officers have defended their use of force, saying it was appropriate because Lambert was causing damage to property, had become violent and had put their safety at risk. Their attorneys didn't respond to emails seeking comment Monday evening.
In court, their attorneys have also rejected claims made by Lambert's family that the man's race was a factor, noting that one of the officers, Bratton, is also black, The South Boston News & Record reported.