The Guilford County District Attorney has cleared Greensboro Police Department officers of any criminal wrongdoing in the case of Marcus Deon Smith, the man who died after officers restrained him in a controversial manner.
On September 8, police encountered Smith while he was running in and out of traffic, shouting for help and threatening to kill himself.
According to a letter from now-former Guilford County District Attorney Douglas Henderson to GPD Chief Wayne Scott dated Dec. 28, 2018, police tried to intervene by encouraging Smith to get into a squad car so they could take him to a hospital. Smith eventually did, but became disruptive in the vehicle, causing officers to let him out.
After falling out of the car, officers tried to restrain him as he began to resist. They eventually did so using what's known as a RIPP Hobble restraint, a controversial method of immobilizing a person similar to a hogtie.
Smith then became unresponsive, the restraints were removed and EMTs transported him to the hospital, where he died a short time later.
The state's autopsy report noted the cause of death included a number of factors contributing to what was a sudden cardiac arrest, including alcohol and drugs in Smith's system and a history of heart problems. The report also noted specifically that the method of restraint was in part responsible for his passing, and labeled his death a homicide.
In Henderson's letter to Scott, the district attorney outlined his job in the matter.
“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,” Henderson says.
“The unequivocal answer is that there is no evidence to substantiate a basis for criminal charges in this matter.”
Henderson goes on to say that, after reviewing the evidence, the officers' intention was to help and not hurt Smith, and that though his death is tragic, there was no criminal negligence.
He also writes that he now considers the matter closed.
Smith's case has been a flashpoint in the community, with the Greensboro City Council successfully petitioning for the release of the officers' body camera footage, and Smith's family calling for changes to certain police department policies, including banning the use of the RIPP Hobble.
The Greensboro Police Department had previously cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing, saying they acted within the scope of their duties at all times.