Man died after Salt Lake City police pinned him in struggle, video shows

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Nykon Brandon was running across the street in his socks and underwear when Salt Lake City police officers confronted him, took him to the ground and tried to stop him.

Brandon struggled with multiple officers for about five minutes until his labored breathing seemed to stop, according to the August 14 video of the incident. An officer tapped his shoulder and asked, “Can you hear me?” video shows.

“Is he alive?” another officer can be heard in the body-cam footage.

Police provided medical attention to Brandon, according to the Salt Lake City Police Department, but less than an hour later, the 35-year-old was pronounced dead.

Salt Lake City Police released body-camera footage of the deadly incident Friday and announced that the internal affairs department and an outside agency, the West Jordan Police Department, are investigating. All officers involved in the incident have been placed on paid leave, a department spokesperson told The Post, adding that the encounter was “a very dynamic, violent and dangerous situation for our police officers”.

“The suspect can be seen on a body-worn camera refusing to follow multiple orders, immediately fighting with our officers, grabbing two of their weapons and resisting while being arrested,” the spokesperson added.

Brandon appears to have been unarmed. The videos released by the department do not show Brandon holding a weapon. The department said no weapon was recovered at the scene. Officials noted, however, that Brandon appeared to grab an officer’s belt early on in the encounter. Footage shows him putting his hand to the officer’s weapon before someone else puts him on the ground.

A 911 caller noted that Brandon appeared to be a danger to himself and possibly others. The caller requested that “mental health resources” respond.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said in a statement that the department will use the findings of the investigation to evaluate policies, training and procedures.

Brandon’s death comes as police forces across the country grapple with how to deal with people experiencing a potential mental health crisis. Although The Washington Post doesn’t track the number of non-police shooting deaths across the country, 21 percent of the more than 7,680 fatal police shootings since 2015 involved a person with mental illness, according to Post tracking.

In recent years, departments have implemented de-escalation policies and training to reduce the number of cases where police use physical or lethal force. Such a policy was imposed in August 2020 by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall (D). It requires officers to use de-escalation techniques, such as building rapport with a person and applying techniques that result in “voluntary compliance.”

About two years after those reforms, police were called to respond to the Fisher Brewing Company, where a man wearing only underwear attempted to steal beer before running into the street, the caller said. They added that the man was “absolutely a danger to himself” and that he “more or less” attacked someone at the entrance to the brewery.

Minutes later, a police officer found a man, later identified as Brandon, running across the street, the department said. The officer said “stop,” approached Brandon and immediately tried to grab him, according to the officer’s body camera images.

Brandon then appeared to grab the officer’s belt and gun, according to body camera footage of another officer who arrived a few seconds later. That officer approached and pushed Brandon to the ground. Both officers tried to restrain the man.

“I’m going to Tase you,” says one of the officers according to the images. “Do you want to get Tased?”

After a third officer arrived and joined the effort to restrain Brandon, the man appeared to place his hand on an officer’s holster weapon, causing someone to announce, “He’s got a hand on your gun.” More officers arrived as the battle continued, and the officers eventually forced Brandon’s hands behind his back and handcuffed him.

About four minutes after the encounter, four officers held Brandon face down on the ground as he moaned and breathed heavily, according to the footage. Nearly five minutes after the encounter, an officer said, “We can make you sit up if you stop.”

Brandon didn’t respond and continued to take a deep breath. After a few more moans, he seemed to lose consciousness. The body camera videos end when the police begin to roll him onto his back.

The department said in a statement that officers assisted Brandon, including giving him multiple doses of Narcan, a drug to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. Brandon was transported to hospital and pronounced dead less than an hour after the encounter began, according to the ward.

It’s unclear if Brandon had any drugs in his system. The city’s medical examiner has not publicly shared the results of his autopsy, and the office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post early Monday.

Hours before the violent encounter in Salt Lake City, police in neighboring South Salt Lake found Brandon drunk in a park and dropped him off at a detox facility about three blocks from the brewery where the 911 call was made, KUTV reported.

Local activists say that nothing Brandon did justified his death.

“Stealing a beer does not equate to the death penalty,” Lex Scott, the founder of Black Lives Matter-Utah, told the Associated Press. “I don’t care if this man robbed ten banks in one day. He didn’t deserve to die. He deserved to go to court.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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