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January 18, 2021

Judge orders release of videos in man’s jail death in Forsyth County

By TOM FOREMAN Jr.

Associated Press

WINSTON-SALEM (AP) — Two videos showing a jailed North Carolina man restrained in what reports described as a “hog-tie” position before his death last year should be released publicly, a judge ruled Friday.

Forsyth County Superior Court Judge R. Gregory Horne said in a five-page ruling that releasing the video of John Neville, a 56-year-old Black man from Greensboro, “is necessary to advance a compelling public interest.”

The videos — with limited redactions — won’t be publicly available until midday Wednesday, Horne ruled. One video runs nearly 20 minutes and is from the body camera of one of the five former detention officers charged with involuntary manslaughter in the case. Another video is nearly 26 minutes.

Neville’s family issued a statement thanking Horne for his decision and calling for calm from protesters who had urged the release of the video.

“Next Wednesday will be an emotional day not only for us but for so many others in this city, state and across the country,” the statement said. “We would like to reiterate our strong desire that any protests be peaceful and honorable and free from violence or destruction in any form towards businesses, property and citizens including the individuals who have been charged in our father’s death.”

The footage, according to an attorney for Neville’s family, shows him telling jailers 24 different times that he could not breathe while he was restrained with his arms behind his back and his legs folded in a “hog-tie” position, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

Neville died of a brain injury on Dec. 4 at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. A nurse is also charged with involuntary manslaughter in his death, which came three days after Kernersville police arrested him on a warrant accusing him of assaulting a female in Guilford County.

Neville was being held in the Forsyth County Jail.

Horne noted that the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office did not publicly acknowledge Neville’s death for more than seven months. Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. has said he withheld word of Neville’s death at the request of the family and the family’s attorneys.

“This extended delay in reporting only deepens the compelling public interest in a death allegedly caused by the actions of Forsyth County detention officers or personnel,” Horne wrote.

Neville’s brain injury occurred because his heart stopped beating, which deprived his brain of oxygen, according to the autopsy report, which also said he asphyxiated while being restrained.

Eleven media organizations, including The Associated Press and the Winston-Salem Journal, petitioned a judge to publicly release the video, including body camera footage from his arrest and other recordings that show what happened while he was in the jail.

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