"Sir, I Can't Breathe": White Man Promotes Justice for Derrick Williams with Billboards - Milwaukee Police Ignored Black Man Suffocating in Cruiser for 15 Minutes


From [HERE] The fight for justice for a man who died in Milwaukee police custody last year rises to new heights. Billboards are going up to raise awareness about the death of Derek Williams. The billboards are being paid for by a family that does not know the Williams family, but they say they share the family's pain. Michael Bell is paying for the 17 billboards around the city.

His fight with law enforcement started in 2004 when his 21-year-old son was shot in the head by a Kenosha police officer while in handcuffs.

"Our family has been fighting for change in the law enforcement review process," says Bell.  "Within 48 hours the Kenosha Police Department cleared itself of any wrongdoing." In 2010, Bell's father settled out of court with the city for more than $1 million.  The settlement money is paying for the billboards.  The billboards have different messages including one which shares Williams' last words "Sir, I can't breathe."  They are designed to grab your attention to a call for change. 

Williams suffocated to death while handcuffed, naked from a strip search, in the back of a police car. He repeatedly told officers he couldn't breathe for at least 15 minutes between the time of his arrest and his death. They repeatedly ignore him as he suffocates to death. It is captured on graphic video which was released last month. 

The graphic video shows a handcuffed Williams, his eyes rolled back, gasping for breath and begging for help in the back seat of a Milwaukee police car as officers ignore his pleas. Williams, his hands cuffed behind him, repeatedly begged and told officers he couldn't breathe for at least 15 minutes between the time of his arrest and his death. Officers ignored him and believed him to be acting.  Officers told internal investigators they did not hear him ask for help. In the video Williams is naked - as police had conducted a strip search before placing him in their cruiser.  

Williams, who had gotten out of jail earlier in the day after being arrested on municipal warrants for loitering, vandalism and assault, fled from police after attempting to rob a couple near the intersection of N. Holton and E. Center streets, according to the reports. He was sweating profusely when police found him hiding behind an overturned card table. Officer Richard M. Ticcioni pulled him out. Ticcioni said he believed rookie Officer Patrick Coe helped him. Ticcioni "ended up on top of Williams with the suspect facing down," according to the report of Milwaukee police Detective Luke O'Day, who interviewed Ticcioni.

Williams, his hands cuffed behind him, repeatedly told officers he couldn't breathe for at least 15 minutes between the time of his arrest and his death, according to records. He first made the complaint as he lay facedown, Ticcioni pressing a knee across his back, O'Day's report says.

"As soon as he released pressure, Williams began squirming, as if trying to break free, and reached around his right side to his right waistband (while still in handcuffs)," according to the report. Ticcioni worried that Williams was trying to grab a gun and "reapplied pressure with his right knee to prevent any further movement from the suspect," the report says.

Officers then searched Williams. No gun was found.

They got him to his feet, and "Williams immediately went limp," the report says. Ticcioni "laid him on the ground on his back and observed that he was breathing hard."

"He felt Williams was playing games and directed him to stop messing around," the report says.

A few minutes later, as officers Ticcioni and Coe were helping Williams walk toward the car, Coe left Williams' side to move a "for sale" sign that was blocking the sidewalk. When he did, Williams "pulled forward and fell face forward into the grass," the report says.

Ticcioni believed Williams was dragging his feet to make it difficult for the officers to get him to the waiting squad car, the report says.

Once locked in the back seat, Williams continued to say he could not breathe and asked officers to call him an ambulance, according to the squad video and a summary of the internal investigation. Officers Jeffrey Cline and Jason Bleichwehl, who can be heard talking on the recording, told internal investigators they did not hear Williams ask for an ambulance, the summary says. [MORE

The electronic billboards will be interactive.  Starting next week people can send a message to the Williams family through Facebook, and those messages could appear on a billboard. "He (Bell) knows our pain and that's the statement we're trying to make," says Derek Williams' aunt Maeleen Jordan.