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Forsyth County judge issues ruling to release videos after death of John Neville

Officials said John Neville, 57, of Greensboro, died on Dec. 4, 2019, four days after he was arrested and taken to the Forsyth County Jail.

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — A Forsyth County judge issued a ruling to release videos after the death of an inmate.

Officials said John Neville, 57, of Greensboro, died on Dec. 4, 2019, at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, four days after he was arrested and taken to the Forsyth County Jail.

Neville was being held on a pending charge of assault on a female.

Details surrounding Neville’s death were later released in an autopsy.

WFMY News 2 reported in July, five former Forsyth County Sheriff's Office detention officers and a nurse were charged early in the month with involuntary manslaughter in Neville's death.

The district attorney said that around 3:24 a.m. on Dec. 2, Neville "suffered an unknown medical condition" while asleep and fell from the top bunk in his cell and onto the concrete floor.

RELATED: 'I will continue to do what is right by the family' | Forsyth County Sheriff speaks after request made to release video in John Neville's death

A court order outlined the judges ruling. It said there are multiple videos of the events that captured different angles from a body camera, handheld camera, and fixed dormitory cameras. The judge granted just two of the videos to be released with limited redactions. 

The district attorney and counsel for the defense objected to releasing the recordings and video of the incident, according to court documents.

Neville’s family was originally against releasing the recordings and requested Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough not to release the recording or other information about their father’s death, according to the court order. However, the documents said the family, by and through counsel now requests the videos be released to the public.

The family released a statement Friday afternoon.

"The Neville family would like to thank Judge Horne for his quick analysis and timely ruling that was filed today. While we are pleased with his decision, we are mindful of the emotional impact it will have on our family for the public to see the video of our father’s final moments. We appreciate Sheriff Kimbrough’s continuing efforts to support our wishes and the courage that District Attorney Jim O’Neill has exhibited in handling this tragic situation. Next Wednesday will be an emotional day not only for us but for so many others in this city, state and across the country. We would like to reiterate our strong desire that any protests be peaceful and honorable and free from violence or destruction in any form towards businesses, property and citizens including the individuals who have been charged in our father’s death. Justice for our father will not result from violence, pain, or suffering. Lastly, we would like to thank all of the members of the media who have been respectful of our privacy and kind in their interactions with us."

Kimbrough said he'll support the family no matter what, just as he has from the beginning, in a recent interview with WFMY News 2 just a day before the two videos were ruled to be released.

"The wishes of the family have been upheld and even as recently as yesterday when they asked that the video be released. My stance is with them from the beginning and my stance was with them yesterday," Kimbrough said.

The five detention center officers charged in Neville's death are:

  • Lavette M. Williams
  • Antonio M. Woodley
  • Edward J. Roussel
  • Christopher B. Stamper
  • Sarah E. Poole

On June 17, The News & Observer Publishing Co. filed a petition for the release of custodial law enforcement agency recordings. The petition sought the release of any recordings in the custody of the Forsyth County sheriff’s office and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation concerning events surrounding the death of John Neville on or about Dec. 2, 2019.

Court documents from the State of North Carolina said Neville was being held in the Forsyth County Detention Center.

RELATED: 'His family knows him as dad' | Forsyth Co. Sheriff releases statement after request made to release video in John Neville’s death

Documents said Neville was arrested by Kernersville police on Dec. 1, 2019, on an outstanding warrant from Guilford County.

Officials said while at the Forsyth County Detention Center Neville suffered an unknown medical condition on Dec. 2, 2019, which caused him to fall from a top bunk and onto the concrete of a cell floor.

Court documents said detention officers and a nurse responded to the cell and interacted with Neville.

Documents said Neville was moved to an observation cell by jail personnel and eventually emergency medical assistance arrived to help Neville.

Officials said Neville was taken to the hospital where he passed away on Dec. 4, 2019.

District Attorney Jim O’Neill announced in July five detention officers and a nurse had been charged with involuntary manslaughter relating to the death of Neville.

Officials said all defendants were given an opportunity to be heard, through counsel, at the present hearing and the court head from District Attorney, legal counsel for Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough.

Court documents said by and through counsel the petitioners request the recordings will be released to the public.

Officials said public interest is only furthered by the fact the death was not publicly reported for at least six months after it happened.

The documents said there was an SBI investigation on or about Dec. 5, 2019, at Sheriff Kimbrough’s request.

Officials said the results of the investigation along with the autopsy have resulted in criminal charges.

“While the court acknowledges the decision to not publicly report the death was made by Sheriff Kimbrough at the request of the grieving family, this extended delay in reporting only deepens the compelling public interest in a death allegedly caused by the actions of Forsyth County detention officers or personnel,” wrote North Carolina courts.

Officials said the recordings do not contain information that is otherwise confidential or exempt from disclosure or release under state or federal law.

Court documents said there are parts of the video where Neville is receiving emergency medical care and some depictions are of a highly sensitive personal nature.

Officials said there were concerns raised about possible safety issues to defendants if recordings were released.

The documents said confidentiality is not necessary to protect an active criminal investigation.

RELATED: 'I can't breathe' | Autopsy report details death of Forsyth County inmate John Neville

Officials said having reviewed the SBI investigative report and autopsy, the District Attorney has initiated and publicly announced charges.

Documents said the court has considered and deemed the family’s request the video be released, relevant.

The court said it has reviewed multiple video recordings and it appears to the court the recordings were made by a combination of body camera, at least one handheld video camera, and fixed dorm camera.

Officials said the court will order the release of two videos with limited editing of the text for publication. The videos should be released on August 5. 

Neville's family released the following statement on the ruling:

"The Neville family would like to thank Judge Horne for his quick analysis and timely ruling that was filed today. While we are pleased with his decision, we are mindful of the emotional impact it will have on our family for the public to see the video of our father’s final moments. We appreciate Sheriff Kimbrough’s continuing efforts to support our wishes and the courage that District Attorney Jim O’Neill has exhibited in handling this tragic situation. Next Wednesday will be an emotional day not only for us but for so many others in this city, state and across the country. We would like to reiterate our strong desire that any protests be peaceful and honorable and free from violence or destruction in any form towards businesses, property and citizens including the individuals who have been charged in our father’s death. Justice for our father will not result from violence, pain, or suffering. Lastly, we would like to thank all of the members of the media who have been respectful of our privacy and kind in their interactions with us."