Police awaiting autopsy release footage in death of Ala. man

AP News
Posted: Jul 16, 2015 5:53 AM

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama police chief says he hopes releasing more than two hours of video and audio footage dispels concerns that a man who died while officers were trying to take him into custody was a victim of police misconduct.

Tuscaloosa police have said Anthony Ware complained of breathing problems after being pepper sprayed last Friday night, then collapsed and later died.

Footage released to the public, however, doesn't show the moment that he was sprayed or detained.

None of the first officers to arrive on the scene was outfitted with body cameras, Police Chief Steven Anderson said.

"The information that we've put out will answer some questions, but it's gonna create a lot more questions," Anderson told a news conference. The chief said the department could only afford to outfit about 60 of the department's 286 officers with body cameras, but would buy more if funding became available.

Ware was wanted for attempting to elude police and officers were called to his location by a woman who said he was sitting on the front porch of an apartment. Dashcam footage shows a man running away after patrol cars have stopped on the street.

Authorities earlier this week said unedited audio and video footage of the encounter would first be shared with Ware's family before it was released publicly.

"They were understandably emotional and upset by some of the things that they heard and some of the things that they saw," Anderson said.

The video skips from footage being recorded from inside a patrol car to footage from an officer with a body camera arriving on the scene and heading into the dark woods.

On the video, one officer says Ware is breathing but won't cooperate. An officer is later heard asking for emergency responders to come check on Ware and police begin administering CPR.

"He ran into the woods and we took him into custody. He started saying he couldn't breathe and wouldn't really help us get him out of the woods, but he was still conscious and talking to us," a female officer is heard saying on the video. "We were doing our best to drag him out of the woods and then he coded."

Authorities have not yet released Ware's official cause of death. The department has asked for an expedited autopsy, Anderson said.

"I'm positive that there will be no injuries that were caused by the officers that resulted in his death," Anderson said, adding that the autopsy and all investigative findings will be turned over to the district attorney for presentation to a grand jury.

Footage from one of the officer's body cameras shows a crowd of onlookers alleging police brutality when police emerge from the woods. Some are seen recording officers with their cellphones and asking why Ware was unresponsive after he ran away.

"I got one question: Is he breathing?" one woman asks. "Is he still alive?"