JAMAL SUTHERLAND: Family of late Charleston man visit statehouse asking for legislative change

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Jamal Sutherland was a 31-year-old Charleston man who suffered from mental illness. 

His death in January of last year sparked outrage after a video of him being tased repeatedly by officers was released.

“Jamal did not deserve to be in jail. If they were going to do anything, treat him where he was because there was no treatment where he was going,” said Jamal’s mom, Amy Sutherland, who was visiting the statehouse Wednesday. “If they had given him the medication he would have had, he wouldn’t have run anywhere. He would have been sleeping.”

Jamal was a patient at a mental health facility. After a fight broke out, he was accused of third degree assault and battery, a misdemeanor.

“Then when they took him to jail, they tried to take him out of the cell to go to a bond hearing that didn’t require him to be present. They could have given him a ticket,” said Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III, National Action Network religious affairs vice-president. 

Instead, Jamal was given multiple shocks by a taser, placed in handcuffs and a spit bag was put over his head.

He died after this incident and now his family wants to see an excessive force bill passed in South Carolina.

“We need accountability. With accountability comes consequences. With consequences comes change in behavior,” said Jamal’s father, James Sutherland Sr.

The officers involved in Jamal’s death were fired, but one state senator believes an excessive force bill is needed in the state.

“We have to make sure they are protecting the people of our state and not killing them,” said Sen. Mia McLeod, a Democrat from Columbia.

Jamal’s family also supports a hate crimes bill. South Carolina is one of two states without such a law.

“What is wrong with South Carolina? Why would you be opposed to a hate crimes bill?” asks Rev. Rivers.

The bill has passed the House but not been taken up by the Senate.

“There could be movement on a hate crimes bill but last time I checked, we have 10 senators who are blocking it on the senate floor,” McLeod said. “We are not able to debate it unless we set it for special order, which is also unlikely.”

She urges concerned citizens to write to their senators if they want a hate crimes bill to be passed.

McLeod has also asked her colleagues who are opposed to it why they have that stance.

“I’ve gotten no answers or anything specific and concrete,” the senator said. They just say ‘I need to look at it more’ or ‘I don’t think we need it.'”

Senate majority leader Shane Massey has been previously quoted as saying the bill does not protect anyone or make anyone’s life better in its current form.

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