Family of dead York County Prison inmate says there is video of him being tased
Everett Palmer Jr. died while in custody at the York County Prison last April. His mother questions the circumstances of his death. York Dispatch
Authorities investigating the 2018 death of a York County Prison inmate are apparently in possession of a video that shows him being tased inside the jail.
The family of Everett Palmer Jr. held a news conference at their church in Queens, New York, on Tuesday, June 11, to discuss their frustrations about how they believe the case is being handled.
Palmer, 41, of Seaford, Delaware, died April 9, 2018, after he was found repeatedly hitting his head against a wall in his prison cell, authorities have said.
State police and the York County District Attorney's Office are investigating, and state police spokesman Trooper James Spencer said this week the investigation remains active.
When asked about the video, District Attorney Dave Sunday said he cannot comment about ongoing investigations.
"There is a video, as there is with any prison investigation," York County Coroner Pam Gay confirmed on Wednesday, June 12.
The video is mentioned in Palmer's full autopsy report, which the coroner's office provided to his family in August 2018, according to Gay, who said she doesn't deny it's also possible she or one of her deputy coroners mentioned it verbally to the family.
She declined to discuss details about whether the video shows Palmer being shocked with a Taser but noted Palmer "was very agitated."
"I have to be careful what I say because I don't want to taint the investigation," Gay said. "It's not that we're trying to hide anything. We're trying to protect the investigation."
The coroner said she anticipates details "will become more clear eventually."
"I truly feel for (the Palmer family)," Gay said. "I understand they want answers. ... We're trying to do the best we can to bring justice for Everett."
Autopsy report: Palmer's brother said during the news conference — publicized by New York cable TV station NY1 — that the family has asked to see the video but so far has not received permission from York County authorities.
The autopsy report has so far not been made public.
Gay said that if the family gives her permission, she can publicly release Palmer's full autopsy report. The Palmer family also could release the report themselves, she noted.
Their new attorney, Philadelphia-based Lee Merritt, has not returned repeated messages seeking comment.
Merritt organized a news conference with the family last week in Queens, during which claims were made that Palmer's internal organs were missing. NY1 reported that claim, and national publications including CNN picked up the story.
The York Dispatch reported in 2018 that Gay said the organs weren't missing — that they are being retained by a forensic pathologist for further testing and examination.
Gay and Sunday said they and their offices have received threats, most from out of state, in the wake of the national reporting. They said they won't be pressured into "fast-tracking" the investigation.
"This office has been inundated with phone calls and emails over the last 48 hours," Sunday said this week. "The overwhelming majority of the emails and calls were from other states. It's critical to understand that no amount of outside influence will have any impact on the work of my office. We follow the facts and apply the law. Period."
New witnesses? At Tuesday's news conference, parts of which have been aired by NY1, Merritt said witnesses have come forward. He said he hoped they can help explain what happened to Palmer.
He did not identify or describe the witnesses.
"The most frustrating part is my son being murdered and no longer being in our lives," Rose Palmer said Tuesday. "How he was murdered and not having any answers … it’s very frustrating because since April 9 (2018) I have not had a good night’s sleep, because all I do is think about my child and what happened, how it happened. And because I don’t know, I have all kinds of scenarios going around in my mind and it’s torture."
An autopsy and forensic testing determined Palmer's cause of death to be "complications following an excited state, associated with methamphetamine toxicity, during physical restraint," according to a July 28, 2018, news release from the York County Coroner's Office.
A probable sickling red-cell disorder was listed as a contributing factor to the death.
Gay has listed the manner of Palmer's death as undetermined, but she noted that can be changed if and when more information comes to light. Manner of death can be natural, homicide, suicide, accidental or undetermined.
Palmer was in a York County Prison cell about 4:20 a.m. April 9, 2018, when he started hitting his head against his cell door after becoming agitated, Gay has said.
Prison staff took him to the prison's medical clinic, according to Gay, who said "sometimes they have to use physical restraint to render assistance to people ... especially if they are self-harming."
Palmer was then taken to York Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:46 a.m., according to the coroner's office.
At the time of his death, he was locked up on DUI charges.
DUI warrant: Charging documents state he crashed a Honda Accord in the 6500 block of Steltz Road in Codorus Township just after 2 a.m. on Oct. 28, 2016.
Palmer was charged with DUI, careless driving and failing to stay in his own lane.
After he failed to respond to a court summons from the office of District Judge Tom Reilly, the judge issued an arrest warrant for Palmer on Jan. 23, 2017, court records state.
Palmer turned himself in on April 7, 2018, and was taken to prison on $5,000 bail. Two days later, he was dead.
How a high level of meth wound up in his system remains a mystery. It also remains unclear how prison staff restrained him.
Palmer’s brother, Dwayne Palmer, told NY1 that his family wants a "true and full and total accounting of what happened to my brother between April 7 and April 8 (2018). To this day, we have not received any type of information in terms of what happened in that 48-hour period that caused the death of my brother."
No more statements: About 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Gay issued a statement on Twitter saying she will no longer be commenting publicly about the Palmer death investigation while it remains active.
Gay said her office has been fielding "almost constant" media requests and can no longer continue to do that while also handling their other job duties.
She reiterated that she cannot release the full 22-page autopsy report unless the Palmer family consents.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.