Local News

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

Posted May 3, 2016 5:02 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:38 p.m. EDT

— 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.