'I Can't Breathe': Six Charged In Death Of Forsyth Inmate

'I Can't Breathe': Six Charged In Death Of Forsyth Inmate

5:26pm Jul 08, 2020
Attorney Michael Grace, representing the family of John Neville, spoke at a press conference on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Six people, five detention officers and an on-duty nurse, have been charged in connection with Neville's death in December. PAUL GARBER/WFDD

The death of a Forsyth County inmate has been shrouded in mystery for months, but new information came to light Wednesday, including manslaughter charges in connection with John Neville’s death.

“I can’t breathe.”

Three words that have been connected with the deaths of Black men at the hands of law enforcement officers. Men like Eric Garner in 2014 to George Floyd in May of this year.

District attorney Jim O’Neill said Neville uttered those same words as he was held face-down by officers at the Forsyth County jail after a fall from the top bunk of his cell. Neville later died at an area hospital. At a press conference, O’Neill said an autopsy showed he died from complications of being restrained.

“Six counts of involuntary manslaughter were brought forth against six individuals,” he said. “Five of the individuals are former detention officers, and the sixth was for the nurse that was on duty that morning.”

O’Neill told Neville’s two children that his death didn’t have to happen. He went on to invoke the events that followed the death of George Floyd. 

“We have all been witnesses to the unrest that has gripped our world over the last several weeks,” he said. “As it relates to your father, Mr. Neville, his death was avoidable, and that is a tragic, singular fact.”

O’Neill did not answer questions or provide access to the surveillance video of the incident, leaving some issues in the case unanswered for now. They include — what was it about the officer’s actions that made them culpable in Neville’s death, and why was the nurse charged?

Family attorney Michael Grace said the family, though still grieving, is appreciative of the way the sheriff’s and district attorney’s office have handled the case. 

He said people have been frustrated because the video has not been released, but that it was withheld at the request of the family.

“The family has seen it and they are quite devastated by it,” he said. 

Grace also asked protesters not to do anything that would dishonor Neville’s memory.

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