Tory Sanders called police for help after he got lost en route to Memphis and ran out of gas. Hours later, he was dead.
A city in southeast Missouri will pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a Black man who died after having his neck pinned to the ground by a White sheriff.
According to The Associated Press, a federal judge indicated that he will likely approve the half-million-dollar settlement.
The lawsuit, notes the AP, was filed by the widow and children of Tory sanders against the city of Charleston and several police officials.
Sanders died in May 2017. He was, at the time, being held in a Mississippi County jail.
Sanders, recalls The Riverfront Times, had been trying to drive to Memphis but became lost and crossed into Missouri. When Sanders ran out of gas, he called his mom and asked what do.
“If I go to the police, will they help me?” Sanders asked.
Sanders’ mother encouraged him to reach out to law enforcement, saying they would at least help him to get to a bus station so he could return home.
However, officers decided to take Sanders into custody, believing he was suffering from a mental health episode.
After Sanders was in custody, a jail counselor determined that he was suffering from paranoia and recommended that Sanders be hospitalized for observation.
Instead, Sanders was kept in the jail for several hours–when then-Mississippi County Sheriff Corey Hutcheson led a team of deputies and staff into Sanders’ cell.
Sanders was then tackled, pepper sprayed, tased and beaten.
After Sanders was handcuffed, Hutcheson drove his left knee into the man’s neck, pinning him to the ground for approximately three minutes—even as another police officer repeatedly urged Hutcheson to stop.
Sanders died shortly thereafter.
Sanders’ death later drew parallels with the killing of George Floyd, who died after a White Minneapolis police officer spent nearly 10 minutes kneeling on his neck.
“They are so similar,” NAACP-Missouri President Nimrod Chapel, Jr., said last summer. “Floyd and Sanders both died with law enforcement’s knee literally on their neck. The only difference was Floyd was in the middle of the street, and Mr. Sanders was in a jail cell.”
Chapel also pointed out the irony in Sanders’ death—that the man had gone for a drive to clear his head, but wound up dead after seeking help from the sheriff’s office.
“He had gone out for a drive that night, ostensibly to clear his head,” Chapel said. “Runs out of gas that night, and his life was forever changed by his interaction with law enforcement.”
Sanders’ death later prompted the NAACP to issue an advisory warning to Black people, urging them “to beware of the safety concerns with travel in Missouri.”
Hutcheson, notes The Associated Press, was later sentenced to six months in federal prison for unrelated crimes of wire fraud and identity theft. He resigned his post after pleading guilty and is no longer working in law enforcement.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch adds that Hutcheson was sued by another inmate in 2016—in that case, the plaintiff claimed she lost her baby after Hutcheson refused to give her medical attention. Her lawsuit was settled for $50,000.