El Centro – Calif. – A judges order has made police body and dash cam video available to the public in the case of a suspect that died while in ECPD custody. The ruling was made on Thursday. Charles Sampson Sr. was pulled over on December 3rd, 2013 for running a stop sign. After being questioned police say they found a shotgun and meth pipe in his vehicle and then arrested him. As seen in the video, Sampson swallows something while in the back of the patrol car. Sampson was on probation so officers took him to his home to search the residence. He begins to show signs of distress that is seen on the video.
His wife Laverne Sampson was at the scene, she says after her husbands request for help was not taken seriously by the officers she called 911. Audio recordings of that call were released along with the video as well as an officer contacting dispatch to tell them to disregard Mrs. Sampson’s 911 call. Charles Sampson later died, the coroner’s report says it was due to an overdose of meth in his system.
Sampson’s family has brought a lawsuit against ECPD for the incident. We spoke to Christopher Morris, the attorney for the Sampson family, who says there was blatant misconduct by ECPD, “Not only did they disregard Sampson’s pleas for help but ignored his wife’s call for help”.
The El Centro Police Department did respond to the video being made public, they sent out a press release saying that the video was “highly edited” and that Sampson repeatedly said he didn’t desire medical attention. We spoke to the El Centro Chief of Police Eddie Madueno he says, “The officers thought his erratic behavior was a ruse they did not know he ingested meth”. Chief Madueno says he does sympathize with Sampson’s family , “A man died and that’s regrettable and truly a tragedy”. Chief Madueno does want to ask the public to let the justice system work, and encourages residents to let all the evidence be presented and ruled on in a court of law before rushing to judgement. Morris says that the trial begins in May.
Chief Madueno and Morris both agree that police body cameras are a wonderful tool for law enforcement. That can either help the police clear false claims or show excessive force. We will update you with more details as they become available.