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'I can't breathe': Black man dies in police custody after officers kneel on back

Body camera footage reveals an eight-minute gap until CPR is administered to the suspect.
Posted at 2:12 PM, Apr 26, 2024

Police in Canton, Ohio, have released body camera video from the night they said a 53-year-old man died while in custody. Canton Police first responded to a crash on April 18 around 8:25 p.m.

A trail of wreckage can be seen on the Canton police body camera footage released to Scripps News Cleveland. It shows a collapsed power line, then a crashed BMW with the airbags deployed feet away. Witnesses point police toward the AMVETS Lodge down the street.

Two Canton police officers, identified by the department as Beau Schoenegge and Camden Burch, attempt to handcuff 53-year-old Frank E. Tyson at 8:27 p.m.

“They’re trying to kill me,” said Tyson. “They’re trying to kill me.”

Tyson repeats that statement multiple times until officers can be seen pinning him to the ground. The struggle continues as officers get Tyson fully on the ground, one officer with his knee pressed on his back. Tyson was also handcuffed.

“Stop fighting,” said one of the officers.

Tyson responded, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, get off my neck.”

'I can't breathe': Canton police body cam reveals gap until CPR given to suspect who died

Tyson continued to shout that he couldn’t breathe. An officer then takes his knee off Tyson’s back.

Tyson’s niece, Jasmine Tyson said she watched the video with police Wednesday morning.

“He said that he didn't want to die,” Jasmine added. “He was like, ‘call the sheriff,’ and then when they finally got him down, he said that he couldn’t breathe.”

Jasmine said two weeks ago, her uncle was released from a 24-year prison sentence. They didn’t get a chance to visit yet.

“We just kept saying we are going to see each other, we are going to see each other,” Tyson added.

In the Canton police body camera video, after Tyson is apprehended on the ground at 8:29 p.m., officers are seen looking through his wallet for an I.D. and talking to bystanders. Five minutes after Tyson said he couldn’t breathe for the final time, another officer came back in the frame at 8:34 p.m.

“Did he calm down?” asked the officer. “Is he breathing?”

The officer checked his pulse before walking out of the frame.

“It just seemed like forever that they finally checked him, and they checked him I swear the officer knew he was gone; that’s why he hurried up and had to call something,” Jasmine added.

Minutes continue to pass.

“Does he have a pulse?” asked an officer at 8:37 p.m. “He’s unresponsive.”

According to the video, officers started CPR eight minutes after Tyson was last responsive on video. CPR continues for over 10 minutes as medics arrive on the scene until eventually stopping at 8:51 p.m. when Tyson is rolled out on a stretcher. Tyson died later that evening at the hospital.

“I just hope BCI takes their time watching this because every inch and every time of that video needs to be played at the bar; that’s what they need to see,” said Jasmine. "It’s crazy, it’s nonsense.”

Former law enforcement officer and use of force expert Kalfani Ture watched the body camera video and is questioning the training of the officers.

"Once a suspect tells you that they cant breathe, you are just as responsible for preserving life," Ture said. "What's striking here is, I think, an indifference to the individual's humanity."

Ture said the amount of time it took to start CPR is troublesome.

"It's quite a bit of time. I mean, he goes silent," Ture said. "To go from being loquacious to not saying anything at all should have indicated to these well-trained officers."

But another law enforcement expert, Tim Dimoff, saw the video differently.

"Once these officers knew that he was unconscious, they immediately take the handcuffs off," Dimoff said.

Dimoff feels the officers seemed unaware that Tyson had stopped breathing.

"I think they did everything they could within the few minutes of response time they had once they understood that potentially he was not responding," Dimoff said.

Stark County NAACP President Hector McDaniel has asked a criminal justice team to review the video.

"Their responsibility is to review that video and we will disseminate through the information and we will share a collective thought," McDaniel said.

While there are many unanswered questions, McDaniel believes the in-custody death serves as a reminder about the importance of continuing to look at policing practices.

"It's a big picture and it's bigger than just getting to the end result where we see an individual lose their lives," he said.

According to the Stark County Coroner, it could be a couple of months before Tyson's cause of death is determined.

As for what's next, BCI is now handling the investigation, and the two officers involved remain on paid administrative leave per department policy. Scripps News Cleveland has reached out to Canton Police and the mayor's office multiple times this evening to answer our questions on camera, but we are still waiting to hear back.

Mayor of Canton, William Sherer II, released an updated statement Wednesday saying:

“Today we have released the bodycam footage of the arrest incident involving the death of Mr. Frank E. Tyson. I sat down with members of the Tyson family to not only allow them to see what is now being released to the public, but to give them my condolences in person. As we make it through this challenging time, my goal is to be as transparent with this community as possible. This investigation is in the hands of BCI, and we will continue to provide them with all the required information they need to do their work. Given this is a pending investigation, we are limited on what further information we can provide.”
William Sherer II, Mayor of Canton

This story was originally published by Bryn Caswell and Bob Jones at Scripps News Cleveland.