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Black Man In Oklahoma City Told Officers He Couldn’t Breathe Shortly Before Dying. ‘I Don’t Care,’ Was The Reply

A year before George Floyd begged officers for breath in Minneapolis, Derrick Scott made a tragically similar plea and died shortly after in Oklahoma City.

By Gina Tron
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Newly released body camera footage from a May 2019 arrest in Oklahoma City shows yet another black man pleading with police officers that he cannot breathe shortly before his death.

The footage, obtained by Oxygen.com on Thursday, shows three Oklahoma City police officers restraining Derrick Scott, 42. Scott repeatedly pleads “I can’t breathe” in the footage. 

“I don’t care,” one of the officers, Jarred Tipton, responded.

“You can breathe just fine,” another officer told him minutes later.

“I need my medicine. I need my medicine,” Scott, who had asthma and other health issues, pleaded.

Soon after, one of the officers noted that he was “acting like he is unconscious.” 

His eyes appeared to be rolled up toward the back of his head as two of the officers commented on Scott’s earbuds, which were in the grass. One of the officers theorized out loud that the earbuds were likely stolen. Scott did regain consciousness shortly after, and he was crying as he was being loaded onto an ambulance after medics arrived. 

“Once the suspect was loaded into the ambulance EMSA advised officers he had become unresponsive,” Capt. Larry Withrow said in a statement provided to Oxygen.com. Scott died soon after in an emergency room.

The officers had chased down and restrained Scott following a report of a man pointing a gun at someone at a taco truck, according to an incident report obtained by Oxygen.com. The officers pulled a handgun out of his pants as they were restraining him.

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“Following the investigation into this incident, the case was presented to the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office for review," Withrow said in his statement. "According to District Attorney David Prater there was nothing inappropriate on the part of the officers, nor was there evidence of any misconduct by the officers. Therefore, he cleared all involved officers of any criminal wrongdoing.”

He added that the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office report stated there was no fatal trauma. An autopsy obtained by NBC News states that Scott's cause of death was a collapsed lung but his manner of death was ruled as unknown. It listed several “significant” factors which contributed to his death, including physical restraint, asthma, recent methamphetamine use, emphysema and heart disease.

Scott’s uncle, Ronald Scott, told KFOR in Oklahoma City that he was “bothered by how they [police] treated his life.”

Winthrow defended Tipton’s "I don't care" comment, telling KFOR, "certainly that may be something an officer says. Just understand — the officers are fighting with someone at that point.”

The footage of the incident was released after a demand for it from Black Lives Matter Oklahoma City, KFOR reports.

Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, of Black Lives Matter Oklahoma City, told the outlet that “if that is policy and there is a lack of focus on humanity and civility to anyone, then they certainly need to be addressing and changing that policy effective immediately."

“I can’t breathe” was a phrase uttered by Eric Garner in 2014 as the New York Police Department put him in a chokehold while they were investigating whether or not he was selling loose cigarettes. He died about an hour later at a hospital.

It was also said by Manuel Ellis, who died during an arrest in Tacoma, Washington in March. A doorbell camera in the area captured Ellis saying "I can't breathe, sir," to officers, while one responded by telling him to "shut the f--k up." He, too, was dead a short time later.

Most recently, the phrase was used by George Floyd in May, as he pleaded with the four officers who were restraining him after they'd received a report about someone using a counterfeit $20 bill. Arresting officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against his neck for nearly nine minutes, including after Floyd became unresponsive. Floyd’s death has sparked national and international protests calling for an end to racial injustice and police brutality.