Lawyers issue statement calling for justice in Byron Williams’ 2019 death in police custody

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Chicago law firm released a statement Tuesday asking for accountability from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and justice in the Sept. 5, 2019, death of a man in police custody.

Byron Williams was heard saying “I can’t breathe” as police subdued him near Martin L. King Boulevard and Bonanza Road, a cry that resonated through the nation in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Lawyers for Williams’ family said he told police “I can’t breathe” 21 times.

Romanucci & Blandin, LLC released the statement on behalf of the family of Byron Williams “in reaction to the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin case and on the ongoing quest for justice for Byron’s death by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police.”

“Byron Williams should be alive today,” the statement said.

The law firm also criticized Metro officers who had their body cams turned off as Williams was on the ground.

The death was ruled a homicide, but the Clark County District Attorney’s Office told 8NewsNow on Oct. 2, 2020, “no criminal prosecution of the officer(s) involved in the referenced case is appropriate.”

The statement also presents Williams as a loving family member who is greatly missed.

“The callous and inhumane treatment of people like our beloved family member cannot continue to go on,” according to the statement. “We want accountability and justice. We are calling for complete transparency and cooperation.”

Officers initially tried to stop Williams because he didn’t have a bike light.

He failed to obey police and fled on his bicycle, discarding it when he came to a wall. He then ran through the desert for a quarter of a mile. Officers caught up with him in a nearby apartment complex where he was taken into custody.

While he was prone out on his stomach, he complained that he could not breathe. Medical was summoned and Williams was later pronounced deceased at Valley Hospital.

The full statement appears below.

On September 5th, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada, Byron Williams, was chased, subdued, and held to the ground by Las Vegas Metropolitan police officers Patrick Campbell and Benjamin Vazquez, for allegedly riding a bicycle without a safety light. Police camera footage shows the officers kneeling on his back and legs, while he was on the ground, handcuffed, in a prone restraint. Byron pled, “I can’t breathe.” He said he could not breathe over 21 times. We have learned officers turned off body worn cameras during the incident. Within an hour of being apprehended, our brother, friend and uncle was dead. Byron Williams’ death was ruled a homicide. Our family has received no information to believe officers have been punished or faced some real consequence for the death of Byron including criminal charges. Byron was a poet, beautician, and giving person. He would help anyone and give a stranger the shirt off his back. His siblings, nieces, and nephews miss him dearly. He taught his nephews how to ride a bike and how to backflip. He had patience from the gods. He always had a smile on his face; he was also poetic. He once recited a poem describing how the lord gave him his angel wings. To some family members who did not have a father—he was that father figure. He never skipped a beat being in our life. He always enjoyed everything he did with us. That really sticks with our family the most—he enjoyed living life every day. His youngest sister, Robyn, is also emotionally crushed because the police did not follow the simple act of listening to the cries of a human. Imagine waking up and the best we can do is shake our head in disbelief at the lack of concern for human life shown by the police department. Byron Williams should be alive today. We have started advocating even more for families affected by police violence which has led to the Las Vegas Metro Police Department making crucial policy changes, including the requirement that officers leave cameras on until a call is cleared and that citizens be placed on their side or allowed to sit or stand when experiencing distress during a potential arrest. This is a small change, but we need real law and order. Our family continues to grieve, and we are suffering additionally because of the continued actions of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department. The lack of complete information and the disrespect from their unwillingness to deal openly with us makes it impossible for our family to heal. The callous and inhumane treatment of people like our beloved family member cannot continue to go on. We want accountability and justice. We are calling for complete transparency and cooperation. The Las Vegas Metro Police Department continues to hide behind their supposed investigation of the officers to hold back the full facts, videos, and reports from families. This is unacceptable. The Las Vegas Metro Police Department is accountable not only the family of Mr. Williams but to the broader community, as well. There is no excuse for turning off body cameras so a family cannot get the answers they need. In the wake of Derek Chauvin’s verdict, the officers involved in the killing of Byron Williams should be fully held accountable!

Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, on behalf of the family of Byron Williams

Since officers placed Williams’ hands behind his back and placed cuffs on him, that low-level of force, coupled with his death prompted an investigation by the LVMPD Force Investigation Team.

Metro has changed some policies and re-emphasized some policies already in place regarding suspects who complain of physical distress or appear to be in distress

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