Offbeat Louisiana man who died in police custody asphyxiated, had neck trauma

00:07  15 may  2018
00:07  15 may  2018 Source:   nbcnews.com

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The death of a man with Down syndrome who was reportedly killed after lying face-down in police custody has been ruled a homicide. WJLA reports that Robert Saylor, 26, of New Market, Md., was asphyxiated on Jan.

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Image: Sheriff Jospeh Lopinto speaks during news conferenceSheriff Jospeh Lopinto speaks during news conference on May 14, 2018.© Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC Image: Sheriff Jospeh Lopinto speaks during news conferenceSheriff Jospeh Lopinto speaks during news conference on May 14, 2018.

A young black man who died in the custody of four white Louisiana deputies had "significant traumatic injuries" to his neck consistent with asphyxiation, according to the coroner, who classified the case as a homicide.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office put the four narcotics agents involved in the confrontation on desk duty and asked Louisiana State Police and the FBI civil rights task force to join his investigation of how drug suspect Keeven Robinson, 22, was killed Thursday.

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For six months, the Saylor family has remained quiet, patiently waiting to learn how a young man fascinated with law Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old with Down syndrome, died of asphyxia Jan. “I’m not a police basher,” said Patti, who took cookies to the sheriff’s office at the end of last year to thank

But on January 12, he died following a confrontation with the very people he idolized, after he asphyxiated as three police officers tried to restrain him at Loss: Robert Ethan Saylor, who died in police custody , was said to be obsessed with law enforcement. Saylor had been watching Zero Dark

"I understand this incident will be under a microscope," Sheriff Joseph Lopinto said at a Monday news conference where the preliminary results of this weekend's autopsy were announced.

An attorney for Robinson's family, Hester Hilliard, said the autopsy result compounded their grief.

"They had to find out Keeven lost his life at the hands of another, and that's very, very hard for them," she said. "And now they have to move on to making funeral arrangements for this 22-year-old, who should not have died."

A community march was planned for Monday evening as Robinson's family said they believe excessive force was used to subdue him.

"They're killing the children," Robinson's grandmother, Sheryl, told reporters. "Enough is enough."

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Robinson, who was the target of an undercover drug operation, fled from police in his car, crashed into two sheriff's vehicles, and then fled on foot — jumping over several backyard fences before he was caught with drugs on him, officials said.

On Thursday, at the scene, Lopinto said there was "no indication" that deputies had choked Robinson. He noted that the suspect had a history of asthma and that air quality was poor. "It appears to be probably asthma-related," he said then.

But Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich said Monday that the post-mortem examination showed Robinson's death was "caused by the actions of another."

The damage to the soft tissues of his neck, he said, left him confident that the cause of death will be "compression asphyxia" when the autopsy process is completed. He said it was consistent with someone choking, grabbing or leaning on Robinson's neck.

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Two of the victims died of sharp force trauma while a third was asphyxiated , police confirmed. Police didn’t offer any more details. Police also addressed reports that Fenn, who appeared in bail court in Oshawa the day after the killings, had visible injuries.

The coroner noted that the forensic finding of homicide is different from the legal definition and that it will be up to police and prosecutors to determine if a crime was committed.

Lopinto said the four deputies were read their rights and gave statements.

"They were in a fight with this gentleman effecting an arrest," the sheriff said. "Our police officers have to use force and are justified to use force on many occasions."

Asked whether the office has a policy on the use of chokeholds, Lopinto said, "From a policy standpoint, we don't train somebody to hit someone with a brick — but if you're fighting for your your life and the brick's there, you hit somebody with the brick."

Lopinto said the investigation would determine if the use of deadly force on Robinson — who did not have a gun on his body but had one in his car — was justified.

The sheriff's office does not use body cameras or dashboard cameras.

The sheriff said he told reporters Thursday that asthma was the likely culprit because that information — supplied by Robinson's family — was the best information — supplied by this family — he had at the time. He said he asked state police and the FBI to join the probe to ensure there's an independent body involved.

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"Never can have too many sets of eyes to make sure we're doing it properly," he said.

Gaylor Spiller, president of the NAACP's Jefferson Parish chapter, praised the sheriff for his response to the autopsy results.

"I find him to be a decent, honorable sheriff," he said. "He has not let me down yet and I don't feel like he will let me down now," she said.

"The NAACP is not behind criminal actions, we do not represent criminals. You do the crime, you do the time," she added. "But one thing we will not stand for is the killing of an individual."

Image: Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich speaks during a press conference on May 14, 2018.Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich speaks during a press conference on May 14, 2018.© Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC Image: Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich speaks during a press conference on May 14, 2018.Jefferson Parish Coroner Gerry Cvitanovich speaks during a press conference on May 14, 2018.

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