By: DOMINIQUE HEATH, GUEST STAFF WRITER
It has been a year since the death of Darryl Tyree Williams, and unfortunately, there has been no significant progress in the status of his case. The Attorney General ruled that the actions of the officers involved in Williams’ arrest and subsequent death were justified and “not a violation of the law.” This decision has left many questioning the justice system and the treatment of black individuals in encounters with the police.
The incident occurred on January 17, when several Raleigh police officers attempted to arrest Williams, a 32-year-old black man, for possession of a controlled substance. Williams was found in a parking lot that housed a sweepstakes parlor and several closed businesses. The officers were placed on administrative leave following his death.
In the wake of the incident, the State Bureau of Investigation conducted a thorough investigation into the events that unfolded that fateful night. Their findings were then forwarded to Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman. In her summary report, Freeman stated that “it has been concluded that the officers’ actions were not a violation of the law.” She declared that the evidence reviewed failed to show that the use of force was unreasonable in this situation.
The release of Williams’ autopsy report by the state medical examiner’s office added another layer of complexity to the case. The report classified Williams’ death as a homicide, attributing it to “sudden cardiac arrest” related to both cocaine intoxication and the police confrontation. Williams’ family vehemently disagreed with these findings, urging authorities to hold the officers accountable for their actions.
The body and dashboard camera videos released by the police further fueled the controversy surrounding the case. In the footage, Williams can be heard protesting his innocence and expressing concerns about his heart condition. However, the report from the District Attorney stated that the two officers who deployed their Tasers claimed they did not hear Williams’ remarks about his heart problem. The report acknowledged the uncertainty of whether the officers heard Williams, but it emphasized that this alone did not determine the legal analysis.
The decision by District Attorney Lorrin Freeman not to prosecute the six officers involved in the incident has been met with widespread criticism. Dawn Blagrove, the executive director of Emancipate NC, a criminal justice reform group assisting Williams’ family, denounced Freeman’s decision as “disgraceful” and accused her of failing to protect black individuals in Wake County.
Raleigh police Lieutenant Jason Borneo commented on the District Attorney’s decision, stating that it was an internal investigation and refrained from providing further details. Freeman, in her report, highlighted several factors that contributed to her decision, including the belief that a Taser deployment is not considered a deadly use of force. The report also noted that Williams failed to comply with law enforcement commands, leading to fears that he may be armed. Additionally, the report cited Williams’ substantial size advantage over the officers and his probation status for a drug-related felony as factors in his decision to resist arrest.
As we mark the anniversary of Darryl Williams’ death, it is disheartening to realize that there has been no progress in seeking justice for his tragic demise. The lack of accountability and the ruling of the Attorney General have only reinforced the deep-seated frustrations surrounding cases of police brutality and racism within the justice system. The legacy of Darryl Williams serves as a stark reminder of the work that still needs to be done to ensure equal treatment and justice for all.