Apr 30, 2024 - News

Ohio man said "I can't breathe" before dying in police custody

Illustration of a spotlight shaped like a police badge.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Frank Tyson, a 53-year-old Black Ohio man, died April 18 after police in Canton detained him at an American Veterans club.

Why it matters: The cause of death has not yet been determined by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner, but police body cam footage — released publicly last week — shows an officer placing a knee on Tyson's back as police try to restrain him.

  • Tyson uttered "I can't breathe," echoing other high-profile fatalities, including Eric Garner in Staten Island and George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Catch up quick: Canton police say Tyson crashed his vehicle into a utility pole around 8pm April 18. He then fled on foot to the nearby American Veterans club, where law enforcement attempted to remove him from the premises.

  • After a struggle to subdue him, officers told Tyson to "calm down" and assured him that he was fine, per body cam footage. Minutes later, the officers discovered that he was unresponsive. They performed CPR and administered Narcan, the opioid antagonist, before an ambulance arrived.

The latest: The two officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave while the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation reviews the incident.

Between the lines: Tyson had been released from state prison earlier in the month after serving more than 20 years for kidnapping and theft.

What they're saying: A spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General, which oversees BCI, tells Axios that the Stark County sheriff's office requested BCI's involvement on April 18.

  • There is no timeline for the investigation, the spokesperson said, but once complete, it will be referred to the Stark County prosecutor's office.

Canton police chief John Gabbard issued a statement expressing his "deepest sympathy to those close to Mr. Tyson."

  • "Based on experience, I am confident that BCI will conduct a very thorough review. Out of respect for the independence of that investigation, I am limited in my ability to comment further."

The other side: Bobby DiCello, the attorney for Tyson's family — who also represented Jayland Walker's family — likened Tyson's death to Floyd's in a statement.

  • "Why tackle him? Why kneel on him?" DiCello said. "How could you know he lost consciousness and then do nothing? These questions demand answers. We will get those answers for Frank and the whole Tyson family in this time of pain, grief and disbelief."
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