No criminal charges filed after death of Malcolm James at Racine County Jail

NOW: No criminal charges filed after death of Malcolm James at Racine County Jail

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RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Criminal charges will not be filed after Malcolm James died in custody at the Racine County Jail in June of 2021. 

The Racine County Sheriff's Office announced the decision from the Racine County District Attorney's Office on Thursday, Jan. 6. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Malcolm James’ family as we work with mental health professionals to improve the services provided to people in need,” Sheriff Schmaling said. “As Sheriff, I appreciate the professionalism and compassion shown by my correctional officers in attempting to deescalate a volatile situation by speaking to Malcolm James with dignity and respect as they tried to stop him from continuing to harm himself and to get him the medical care he needed.”

The Racine County district attorney released their findings, and body camera video of the incident, on Wednesday, Jan. 5.

James' supporters say the last 15 minutes of the second video show grave, criminal negligence.

They believe James died at the hands of these officers and say this is also a case about mental health.

"They try to portray my son like a monster, and I told them my son was a gentle giant. He was a gentle giant. So soft. It's no reason why he should be gone," said his mother Sherry James.

On May 29, 2021, James, 27, was taken to the Racine County Jail after a suicide attempt and placed on watch.

By June 1, 2021 he was dead.

One body camera video shows officers responding to James injuring himself in his cell.

In the second video, James is restrained, had been tasered and a nurse is called to help the deputies remove two taser prongs from his back.

The medical examiner reported James died by suffocation but there were conflicting expert opinions of this in the Racine County DA's report.

James' attorney called this incident disturbing and says the officers left James to die.

"What they did is they first moved him forward, held him forward, he started to struggle because he couldn't breathe, they then let him back up," said Attorney Kevin O'Connor. "You need to know that these prongs are removed within seconds if you have the removal tool. Finally, an officer after several minutes, goes, 'here's the tool,' hands it over to him, removes the prongs immediately. As they sit him back up he's lifeless."

The sheriff's office said the ruling was made following a thorough review of the facts, evidence, video and opinions of subject matter experts.

The office offered its deepest condolences to James' loved ones but supported the decision not to bring criminal charges. 

Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson met with family and loved ones of James on Wednesday. She said, "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the James family for their loss."

Attorney Kevin O'Connor said James' family is still pursuing a civil lawsuit, and say they will continue to push for state and federal investigators to investigate this case.

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