A British mother recounted how her 23 year old son died while panting “I cannot breathe” when he was detained by 11 police officers in the UK ten years ago.
Olaseni Lewis, a computer science student, had his hands chained with two pairs of handcuffs and his legs held in two restraint systems when he was severed at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham, south London.
When his body became limp, the officers simply walked away, believing he was faking it.
But his brain was deprived of oxygen. He was placed on respiratory assistance and died four days later.
Seni is one of more than 156 people from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) communities who have died as a result of contact with the police since 1990.
The revelation comes as the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis triggers protests in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Olaseni Lewis, a computer science student, died after being sectioned at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham, south London. He was detained in four sets of chains
His mother Aji, in the photo, said they were never brought to justice after the death of their son. 2017 investigation found that “excessive force” was used, but no officer was the subject of a criminal investigation
The family had taken him to the Royal Bethlem Hospital, pictured, due to an episode of mental health
Seni’s mother, Aji, told the Sunday Mirror, “They detained him for more than 45 minutes until he became limp. Then, instead of treating it like a medical emergency, they just walked away. They thought he was pretending.
“They left our son on the floor of a locked room, almost dead. We find it difficult to understand that he died simply because the police and medical personnel failed in their duty to treat him as a human being.
“I can’t watch George Floyd’s video because he says the same thing Seni said,” I can’t breathe. ” “
“People think it is happening in America, it is not happening here. I just want people to know it’s happening here all the time. The same thing. “I can’t breathe,” she told BBC News.
“You never get justice because I don’t know of any responsible police officer.
“There is no responsibility. And you really, until there are, you don’t really feel like there is justice. You don’t feel it. It’s impossible. And that’s really the pain.
An investigation undertaken seven years later concluded that “excessive force” was used on Seni, “disproportionate and unreasonable”.
But a hearing for serious misconduct held behind closed doors by the metropolitan police concluded that none of the six police officers had violated the standards of professional behavior in relation to the death.
Mother Aji said she couldn’t watch George Floyd’s video because it reminded him of his son
Mom told BBC News, “People think it happens in America, it doesn’t happen here. I just want people to know it’s happening here all the time. The same thing. ” I can not breathe “. ‘
The Lewis Family’s Continued Struggle for Justice
August 2010: Olaseni Lewis, 23, is placed on respiratory assistance after being detained by 11 officers and deprived of oxygen. He died four days later.
April 2015: Then Interior Minister Theresa May meets the Lewis family to discuss their cases. It then launched an independent review of deaths in police custody.
May 2017: After a long delay, an investigation is finally held. He concluded that “excessive force” was used against Seni who was “unnecessary and unreasonable”.
October 2017: The IPCC holds a fault hearing following the death of Seni Lewis in private.
He noted that the breaches did not fall within the competence of the jury and constituted a “performance question”.
November 2018: The mental health units (use of force), triggered following the case of Seni, become law. The changes he made included requiring officers to wear body cameras when called to mental health facilities.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has found that six of the eleven officers are facing a misconduct hearing regarding the death during their second investigation.
Deborah Coles, director of INQUEST charity, said the result was “bitter” for Seni’s family.
“Seni has been brutalized, neglected and failed and yet no person at an individual or higher level has been held responsible,” she said.
“After a seven-year wait, it’s a bitter result for Seni’s family. We are an inferior society for a system that does not hold responsible for the police actions leading to these preventable deaths in our community.
In response to the investigation, the family said, “When Seni got sick, we turned to the state in desperation: we took him to the hospital we thought was the best place for him.
“We will always bear the cross of knowing that, instead of the help and care he needed, Seni met his death.
“The officers involved in the restraint were not or were unwilling to express their condolences or regrets in their testimony, in the same way that none of their directors or superiors of the metropolitan police were received during these years. “
Theresa May, as a home secretary, met with the Lewis family in 2015 to discuss the matter.
She wrote to them in a letter, “It is clearly unsatisfactory that families must go to court to quash an IPCC report in order to have a second investigation into the death of a loved one. “
The family also campaigned for a law that would require that any use of force against patients be registered, that staff be better trained, and that each mental health unit must publish a policy on the use of force.
It became law in 2018 as the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act following a vote in Parliament.
George Floyd’s death sparked protests across London against racism
Protesters photographed outside Downing Street, London, during a Black Lives Matter demonstration
Fences outside Parliament have been decorated with signs calling for action
The death of George Floyd sparked largely peaceful protests in central London.
However, ten officers were injured and a policewoman was hospitalized after her horse bolted.
Images show flares and a Boris bicycle launched at police trying to monitor the street action.
In response to the chaos, Priti Patel said last night that the violence against the police during the protests was “totally unacceptable” and gave him “all his support in combating the disorderly behavior”.