Campaigners blame training after Conway man dies in custody


All the officers involved were exonerated after the death of Lionel Morris, 39, in their custody.

CONWAY, Ark. – Body camera footage released by the Conway Police Department following the inquest into the in-custody death of Lionel Morris in February has prompted some activist groups to renew their calls for better training and better methods.

Morris died on February 5 on his way to hospital after body cameras showed the 39-year-old tried to flee from police by arresting him for shoplifting.

RELATED: Conway Police Release Body Camera Video After Man Dies in Police Custody

The edited videos depict a struggle and officers firing at least twice with a stun gun. Morris had methamphetamine and opioids in his system, according to the medical examiner, and the prosecutor cleared all officers implicated in felony.

But both in the edited clips released by the department and in the raw footage viewed by THV11, Morris can be heard saying he can’t breathe and has heart problems.

Part of the tapes where officers stand on Morris’ back anger an activist.

“It’s that fundamental demonstration of a lack of training and a lack of ability to handle these types of situations,” said Hadiyah Cummings, leader of a group called Reinvest Conway, which formed as a result. of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police and called for an independent investigation into what happened to Morris.

Prosecution attorney Carol Crews cleared all officers and pointed to the state medical examiner’s report who found so much meth in Morris’s system that it could not be counted accurately.

But the fight with the police, combined with the drugs, is what caused Morris’ death. Crews says Morris imposed himself by running and resisting.

This part is not suitable for Cummings.

“The emotional response I have now comes from re-inspiring me to continue pushing city council members to more than mere statements of hand-held events,” she said, adding that she had requested images released by the department last week, but was refused.

Conway Police would not make any on-camera statements to THV11 beyond the video showing. Arkansas State Police conducted the investigation, but now all of the officers involved face an internal department investigation.

Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry said he had found some cause for concern in the videos and called for some of those involved to be put on paid leave during the internal investigation.

RELATED: Bodycam Footage Released After Fayetteville Police Killed Man With Paintball Gun

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