The Greensboro City Council gave in to mob rule at its town hall meeting on Monday, April 1, and all but agreed to launch another investigation into the Sept. 8, 2018 death of Marcus Deon Smith.
For months a relatively small, unruly group –made up of many of the same people who last year protested for months about the panhandling ordinance – have been disrupting City Council meetings with protests about Smith, who died after being restrained by police. The State Bureau of Investigation investigated Smith’s death and the Guilford County district attorney determined that no charges should be brought.
According to the autopsy report, one of the contributing factors that resulted in Smith’s death from cardiac arrest was the restraints placed on Smith by police in preparation to transport him to the hospital, but other contributing factors included “n-ethylpentalone, cocaine and alcohol use; and hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.”
The police body cam videos of Smith’s interaction with police have been released. In those, Smith appears to be extremely agitated and disoriented and is running in and out of traffic on Church Street. At one point police convince Smith to get into the back of a police car; Smith is completely unrestrained. However, Smith becomes agitated in the back of the car and starts beating on the windows. The police remove him from the back of the car and attempt to restrain him so he can be transported to the hospital. When the restraints are in place, Smith stops breathing and the restraints are removed. Smith receives CPR and is transported to Cone Hospital. Smith never recovered consciousness and was pronounced dead in the emergency department.
The group protesting have repeatedly demanded that Police Chief Wayne Scott be fired because the initial press release sent out by the Police Department about Smith’s death is inaccurate.
First, this assumes incorrectly that the Greensboro police chief writes the press releases for the Greensboro Police Department and, second, that a press release is some kind of official legal document that is required to be accurate. It is absurd to think that Scott writes the press releases for the department, but it is equally absurd to demand that anyone should be fired because a press release about an ongoing situation was inaccurate. When the first press release went out, the authorities didn’t know the identity of the person who had died.
But the Greensboro City Council has given in to these protestors and has all but promised to launch another independent investigation of Smith’s death.
What this proves is that you can get anything you want from the Greensboro City Council if you are willing to disrupt a few meetings by shouting, making a lot of noise and generally making a nuisance of yourself during the meeting. If you stand up and yell at the City Council a few times from the audience, you can probably get what you want quicker.
At the meeting on Monday night, Councilmember Michelle Kennedy made the motion that the City Council have an independent agency investigate the Smith’s death. City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson seconded the motion. Because the City Council does not vote on motions at its town hall meeting, no vote was taken, but Mayor Nancy Vaughan promised that there would be a vote at the next regular meeting of the City Council on April 16.
No one on the City Council spoke against launching an independent investigation. This is the second year in a row that this same group had taken over the City Council. Last year it was about the panhandling ordinance and this year it is Smith.