KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knoxville Police Department Chief Paul Noel has issued a statement following the public response to the footage showing officers’ interaction with Lisa Edwards before her death in police custody.
Edwards was arrested by police outside of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center after they were told by the hospital security that she refused to leave.
The video released by police shows Edwards having difficulty breathing and asking for help. Then she was unresponsive in the back of a police cruiser and taken back to Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center where she later died from a stroke the next day.
“I was disturbed and embarrassed by what I saw in the video,” Noel said. “My expectation is that our officers treat every person they encounter, regardless of the context or situation, with respect, dignity and basic decency. We should also take pride in helping those who need it.”
He continued, “As soon as I was notified of the situation involving Lisa Edwards, I went directly to headquarters from church to meet with the Field Operations Commander, Central District Commander, the Investigations Bureau Leadership Team and members of the Internal Affairs Unit. We reviewed the now-publicly released videos from that situation, which were incredibly difficult to watch.”
Noel added that he personally contacted Knox County District Attorney Charme P. Allen and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch to inform them about the situation.
“I also notified Police Advisory & Review Committee Director Tiffany Davidson. The involved employees were also placed on administrative leave,” he said. “We cooperated fully with the TBI’s investigation. We also made a commitment to release the video, because we felt strongly that the public both needed and deserved to see it.”
Knoxville Police released the videos on Feb. 23, after the District Attorney’s Office released that no charges had been filed against any of the police officers. The involved employees have been on administrative leave since Feb. 5, Noel said.
“Now that the TBI’s criminal investigation has concluded and District Attorney General Allen announced that her office would not pursue criminal charges, our Internal Affairs investigators are working to complete that investigation as quickly as possible without compromising the integrity or fairness of that investigation. The results and outcome of the investigation will be released as soon as it has been completed and approved by myself and the chain of command,” he said.
According to the Office of the District Attorney General, Edwards flew from Rhode Island to Knoxville on Feb. 4 and began complaining of stomach pain.
She was taken by paramedics to Blount Memorial Hospital where she was diagnosed with constipation. Edwards sought additional care at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center and stayed overnight.
She was released the next day, leading to the situation where the police were called.
Since the footage has been released, Edwards’ family shared their own shock after seeing the videos. Activists in Knoxville also held a protest in front of the Knoxville City-County Building about the treatment Edwards received while in custody.
Edwards’ death has been highly discussed on social media, including on Twitter with the hashtag #JusticeforLisaEdwards.