Body cam video released after man dies from suspected medical episode in CMPD custody

CHARLOTTE — A judge has granted the release of several officers’ body camera videos after a man died over the summer from a suspected medical episode while he was in custody.

It happened on June 13. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said they received several 911 calls saying they heard gunshots, and that someone was trying to break into someone’s home on Featherstone Drive in north Charlotte.

Police said they were able to find the person suspected in the incidents, 32-year-old Jovontay Avery Williams, but said he was suffering from a medical event and was behaving erratically. They said he tried to break into another home while officers were there so they put him in handcuffs using a “‘soft, empty hands’ approach as detailed in CMPD’s response to resistance policy,” CMPD said in a news release.

Officers added they found “suspected narcotics” near Williams at the scene. There were also shell casings in the area. A firearm was found in the grass.

He was taken to a hospital but died that morning after being transferred for more specialized care, CMPD said. He died seven hours after he was transported.

On Thursday, CMPD released footage from several officers’ body cameras, along with a timeline of what happened.

According to CMPD, officers found Williams at 2:09 a.m. He was detained shortly afterward but was not taken to the hospital by MEDIC until 2:52 a.m.

Police said they put Williams into a “recovery position.” They said they turned him briefly onto his stomach as they searched before placing him back into that position. According to CMPD, the recovery position is used for “optimal breathing and safety of Williams and officers.”

“Well, they’re saying one thing and were seeing something else,” said Christa Williams, Jovontay Williams’ mother. “They’re saying it wasn’t a problem. They turned him over but no one offered my son help. He asked for help. Why did you all not just pick him up.”

To see the unedited video released by CMPD, click here. Warning: The videos are graphic.

Police said the completed autopsy and toxicology reports are still pending.

“He’s telling you that he’s hurting,” Christa Williams said. “I’m just not understanding. I’m not understanding that the fire department was there. EMS didn’t come until later.”

The district attorney found no evidence of criminal violations. There were no police violations, CMPD Internal Affairs said.

CMPD Police Chief Johnny Jennings released the following statement about the incident:

“Today, we released body-worn camera footage of the interaction on June 13, 2022, between CMPD officers and Mr. Jovontay Williams. Calls for service came in about Mr. Williams shooting into occupied homes and that he was attempting to break and enter into multiple homes. Officers called CMPD dispatch to request medical assistance after observing Mr. Williams was experiencing a medical emergency. They engaged Mr. Williams, took him into custody, and secured Mr. Williams until CFD and MEDIC arrived. Officers went from dealing with a shooting suspect to dealing with someone in a medical emergency and I commend them for being able to transition quickly and manage the suspect as a medical patient in that situation.

“I know the subsequent death of Mr. Williams may cause a variety of emotions throughout our community, but I want to ask that our citizens please take a moment to review the totality of the circumstances of this incident which is detailed in our critical incident briefing.

“I want to assure our citizens that after thoroughly reviewing the evidence in this case, I am confident that our officers performed their duties appropriately regarding the treatment of Mr. Williams which included seeking a higher level of medical care for him immediately when they realized he was experiencing a medical emergency.

“The State Bureau of Investigation investigated this case and determined that CMPD committed no wrongdoing. Internal Affairs also conducted an internal investigation and determined that no policies were violated.

“As officers, our sworn duty is to safeguard all lives which we take very seriously. So, when one of our citizens unexpectedly dies, it impacts all of us. It impacts me greatly to know that the Williams family is going through such an extremely difficult time. My prayers are with his family.

“As with any tragedy, the CMPD staff will continue to consistently evaluate our current practices and implement the most advanced training possible to ensure that we are providing the best police services to our community.”

Charlotte Fire Chief Reginald Johnson released the following statement:

“We take the death of Mr. Williams very seriously and are exploring thoroughly. Every day, members of Charlotte Fire bravely protect the residents of Charlotte, the place we call home. We are dedicated to our community in service and are resolute in our mission of saving lives. As our community comes together during this difficult time, we hope for peace and healing for the family and loved ones of Mr. Williams.”

Mecklenburg EMS Agency (MEDIC) Executive Director John Peterson released the following statement:

“The very reason for Medic’s existence is to serve our patients with compassion, and we are honored to do so. We have been entrusted with the health and safety of our community and are committed to the Medical Incident Review process that upholds our high standards of care. To the family and loved ones of Mr. Williams, we express our deepest condolences for your loss.”

(WATCH BELOW: Body camera video released after woman shot at CMPD officers)