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Family: Video differs from official version of man's death in Harnett jail

Posted May 3
Updated May 5

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— The publication Tuesday of video showing an inmate being shocked with a Taser at the Harnett County Detention Center raised questions about the official version of the man's death.

Immediately after 23-year-old Brandon Bethea died in custody in 2011, the Harnett County Sheriff's Office said detention officers had shocked him with a Taser after an altercation. The video, published as part of a series on law enforcement oversight in Harnett County by The News & Observer, doesn't show any altercation.

"I want justice served," said Larnetta Corbin, aunt of Brandon Bethea.

Corbin and her daughter told WRAL News that the newspaper's publication of the video was the first time they saw the contradiction between what they were told and Bethea's last moments.

"I watched my nephew take his last breath," said Larnetta Corbin. "I seen it in the footage."

The video shows detention officers escorting Bethea into a cell and removing his handcuffs before shocking him. An autopsy by the North Carolina Medical Examiner blames the shock for Bethea's death. Both the autopsy and the video show that detention officers left Bethea, unrestrained, lying on his back in a padded cell after the shock. He died about an hour later. The autopsy noted Bethea also had a history of schizophrenia and asthma.

"At the beginning, they tried to make it out like he was just a troubled child, like he came out of the court just acting erratically and out of control," Bethea's cousin, Makebia Corbin, said. "All of that wasn’t true once we saw the video."

A spokesman said the Harnett County Sheriff's Office would not comment on Bethea's death or the video.

Larnetta Corbin called the video "heartbreaking" and said justice would require that detention officers involved in Bethea's death lose their jobs.

"I know he is not resting properly knowing this man is still working," Makebia Corbin said.

"I want their jobs too," her mother added. "All of them. Everybody that had anything to do with it. It's not fair."

​The Corbins acknowledged Bethea had been in and out of jail.

"I still does not justify the fact that they took his life," Larnetta Corbin said.

15 Comments

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  • Sherri Schultheiss May 12, 2016
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    This tape shows one thing very clearly. This was murder, not any type of self defense or defense of another. The officer who shocked him should be charged with second degree murder and the others who stood and watched should be charged with accessory to murder. In addition, they all need to be charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and interfering with an active investigation.

  • Janet Ghumri May 5, 2016
    user avatar

    Even if there was a (very) brief altercation, it still looks more like punishment instead of self defense.
    I completely agree with John and Walt, there's a lack of training here.
    What stands out to me is the body language, since there's no audio. Look at the victim as well as the officer who was in the cell with him, notice that neither display signs of tension, their shoulders are down and appear relaxed. They are, at a point, standing within the 'personal space' area (20-26 inches apart), with the handcuffs off, and neither show any bodily tension (stiff stature, slightly bent knees, shoulders up, arm muscles tight, frontal body protection, side turn, etc).
    I'm not an expert by any means, but I can't see either of them showing any indication of anger, tension or fear. Maybe I'm wrong, but it looks like an exercise in abuse of power. The officers all had plenty of other officers to back up their story. But the cameras tell another tale.
    M. U. R. D. E. R.

  • Gail Dragon May 5, 2016
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    This is truly horrifying.

  • John Rowe May 5, 2016
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    The officer in this video appears to use his taser for punitive purposes rather than defense. I assume this is against policy. I was curious as to how often tasers cause death. After some searching, I found the chance of dying after being shot by a taser or stun gun is about 1 in 870 (According to 2005 Wake Forest Univ. School of Medicine Study).

  • Walt Karas May 5, 2016
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    Because there are 1 - 3 second gaps between the frames, it's possible there was a very brief altercation. But clearly the prisoner was not fighting back hard. Since it was three against one, using the taser seems like an overreaction. Minimally, training in the use of tasers is woefully wanting here. Clearly, whenever someone is tasered, they need to be monitored closely for after-effects. Especially someone with health conditions like the ones the deceased had. If someone, government employee or not, uses a taser for punishment rather than necessary self-defense, that is a crime.

  • Anita Gibson May 5, 2016
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    That's the first thing I said, oh my god they murdered him.

  • Woodrow Yonts May 4, 2016
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    yep

  • Mary Meadows May 4, 2016
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    I couldn't have said it any better. From my perspective there was no reason for him to be tazed when they did so. Looks more retaliatory then necessary and a full investigation by a outside agency needs to take place.

  • William Patterson May 4, 2016
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    of course it does ....they always lie about it and even when they get caught in their lie they usually still get off....i have been keeping score for half a century

  • Lance Boyle May 4, 2016
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    looks like they have too many employees, give them some work to do.... maybe step on a treadmill

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