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'Outlet to heal': Community gathers at vigil for man who died in Raleigh police custody

Family members, friends and community activists are gathering to mourn Darryl Williams, who died in police custody,

Posted Updated

Chelsea Donovan
, WRAL reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — The mother of a man who died while in custody of Raleigh police has questions about her son's death.
Police say they used a Taser on 32-year-old Daryl Williams after he resisted arrest on Tuesday, and ran away from officers into the woods. He was handcuffed, but later became unresponsive, according to the police. Officers provided life-saving measures and EMS was called. Authorities took Williams to the hospital, where he died.

Now, Sonya Williams, mourning the death of her only son, is desperate for answers to her questions: Why did her son have a Taser used on him? Was he shocked too many times? Did police really need to use the Taser?

She says police haven't told her anything.

Raleigh police have yet to identify Williams, but they said Tuesday morning that officers making proactive patrols on Rock Quarry Road stopped a suspicious car near a sweepstakes parlor. Police won't yet say why they stopped Williams car.

"He had frequented there a couple of times," Sonya Williams said.

A small memorial sits in the parking lot of Supreme Sweepstakes near where he was stopped by police.

"He has always been cooperative with the police," Sonya Williams said.

Williams has been arrested eight times since 2009. His most recent arrest was in June 2022. His convictions are for misdemeanor larceny and possession of heroin.

Expert provides insight into when police are allowed to deploy a Taser

In Raleigh police's guidelines, officers are not allowed to use a Taser when a person is only passively resisting – or when a person is running away from an officer. They are also not allowed to use a Taser on someone who is handcuffed unless they are violent and likely to harm someone.

"Someone who is just trying to escape but is not a danger to officers well being or anyone else, the use of a Taser Is not an appropriate weapon," explained former law enforcement officer Seth Stoughton, who testified as an expert in police excessive force in the trial of Derek Chauvin, convicted of murdering George Floyd.

Stoughton says if someone is fighting to get away from officers by pushing, kicking or punching at officers, then the Taser can be used appropriately.

It's still unknown what the circumstances were, or how many times William's was struck by the Taser.

"If someone is tased repeatedly, eight, nine [or] 10 times, that can significantly increase the risk they will have a cardiac incident," Stoughton said.

Stoughton points out some specific questions that should be addressed:

"What was happening at the time? How many times was the Taser used? How long was the Taser discharged and over what period of time was it discharged?" he asked.

In 2013, Raleigh police used a Taser on a man in the Five Points area to get an aggressive man under control – and the man died.

The most recent data collected by the state is from 2021, and shows 32 people died by deadly police force. The state doesn't keep records on Taser-involved interactions, specifically.

Community activist, family organize vigil for Williams

A small memorial sits in the parking lot of Supreme Sweepstakes where Williams died. The memorial is the site of a vigil held Thursday by friends and family members of Williams.

Social justice advocate Kerwin Pittman said the vigil is important to give the community an outlet to heal.

"This is a community that has already experienced a lot of trauma," Pittman said. "It's extremely important to honor this man's life."

WRAL News learned Thursday police responded to this location 105 times last year alone.

WRAL News also learned that police were wearing body cameras when Williams was arrested.

William's mother said he intended to go to the gaming parlor early Tuesday morning before he died.

Pittman, like Williams' mother, is also searching for answers.

"He was speaking with someone else at another car from what I'm hearing from people on the scene," Pittman said. "He wasn’t even in the vehicle that they initially targeted."

Pittman believes when Patterson talks about proactive policing, it leads to racial profiling.

"Law enforcement wasn’t called to the scene. [Officers] just so happened to arrive on the scene, determined certain people were suspicious and wanted to pursue those people," Pittman said. "That’s when things escalated."

Pittman ultimately wants to know why police were at Supreme Sweepstakes in the first place.

"Even if he did have a record, law enforcement was not called to the scene for him. They weren't called at all," Pittman said. "So, it begs the question, why were you here?"

Listen to a full podcast from the reporter who covered this story

WRAL's Amanda Lamb and Chelsea Donovan explain the details around the arrest and use of the stun gun in our latest podcast episode of the Daily Download.

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