After a thorough investigation Greensboro police officers have been cleared of any criminal wrong doing in the incident that resulted in the death of Marcus Deon Smith on Sept. 8, 2018.
On Dec. 28 Guilford County District Attorney Doug Henderson, who retired Wednesday, Jan. 2, sent Police Chief Wayne Scott a three page letter outlining the investigation that was done by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and others into the matter and was unequivocal in his determination that while the death was tragic, the police officers acted responsibly and within the law in their treatment of Smith.
Many people have criticized the police officers for using a “Ripp Hobble” device to restrain Smith in preparation for transporting him to the hospital. The “Ripp Hobble” is a device that binds the ankles and then a strap is used to attach the ankles to the handcuffs behind the subjects back. It is more commonly referred to as hog tying. Henderson states that Smith was not transported while restrained by the “Ripp Hobble” but notes that the medical examiner did find that the “Ripp Hobble” was a contributing factor in Smith’s death.
Henderson states, “It was concluded that from the overall death investigation and postmortem examination that the cause of death was a sudden cardiopulmonary arrest due in part to the prone restraint, a combination of illicit drugs and alcohol, and hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.”
Henderson continues that because the cause of death was not natural it was ruled a homicide. He states, “Left for this Office’s determination is whether those actions by the officers provide a basis for a criminal homicide by committing a culpably negligent act. The unequivocal answer is that there is no evidence to substantiate a basis for criminal charges in this matter.”
Henderson notes that when the officers first encountered Smith, who was behaving erratically and running in and out of traffic in the 100 block of North Church Street, they “demonstrated patience and restraint.”
He states that the officers avoided physical confrontation with Smith and “repeatedly pleaded with him to get into a police car so they could get him to the hospital.” He also notes that Smith got into a police car unrestrained and was allowed him to remain there until he became “physically disruptive.”
Henderson states that the use of restraints was necessary to avoid injury to Smith or to others and to ensure his safety while transporting him to the hospital. He notes that the EMT insisted that Smith be restrained before being placed in the EMS vehicle.
Henderson concludes, “The overwhelming showing based on all of the investigative materials presented to this Office demonstrates that these officers meant to help and not harm Mr. Smith. The loss of life is tragic, but there is no evidence to substantiate a criminal act.”