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Marcus Smith's mother reacts to Sheriff Kimbrough’s apology for John Neville's death

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The death of John Neville in the Forsyth County jail last December has received national coverage. The fatal hogtying of Marcus Deon Smith by eight Greensboro police officers during the 2018 North Carolina Folk Festival has not.

Both men were handcuffed and held face-down in prone restraint, causing death from asphyxiation or cardiac arrest. Smith’s ankles were attached to his handcuffs by a hobble restraint applied by police officers who bore him to the pavement and sat on him in the middle of Church Street. Neville’s legs were held by two correctional officers while two more held his arms and a third sat on him, pressing him onto the floor of the single-person cell to which they’d transferred him during a medical crisis.

The police body camera videos of Marcus Smith’s death were released on Nov. 30, 2018, within hours of the state medical examiner ruling that death a homicide, and were introduced with a video statement by Chief Scott that included inaccurate descriptions of what the videos depicted.

Two videos of John Neville’s death were released on Aug. 5, but unlike former Greensboro's Chief Wayne Scott, Forsyth County's Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough did not wait until videos were released to make a statement. On Aug. 4, Kimbrough held a press conference at which Neville’s son Sean and Neville family attorney Michael Grace were present.

As reported by the New York Times, “Sheriff Kimbrough said, “I apologize again for what took place on that day, apologize to you and your family.”

In accepting Sheriff Kimbrough’s apology, Neville family attorney Grace said:

“We wanted to take the opportunity to thank him for acknowledging the truth of this matter. In so many of these instances, the truth is tamped down, it’s hidden, it’s kept secret, but the sheriff has acknowledged that mistakes were made, and that means a lot to the family.”

After watching video of that press conference, Marcus Smith’s mother Mary Smith reached out to YES! Weekly and asked to make a statement, which is reproduced below.

The Smith family applauds Sheriff Kimbrough for coming forth and easing the pain of the family of John Neville, who died in the Forsyth County jail just like Marcus Smith died hogtied by the Greensboro police almost two years ago. We applaud that charges were brought against the correction officers who held Mr. Neville down and the nurse who stood there and watched him die, just like the Greensboro police officers who held my son down and the two EMTs who stood there and watched him die. What’s not similar is what happened afterward. From the beginning, all the Smith family heard were lies and more lies, and all we got was disrespect after disrespect.

Former Greensboro police Chief Wayne Scott never apologized. Instead, he said my son was combative and collapsed in the street. Marcus came to those officers for help, and they threw him down and hogtied him and left him face-down to die. Wayne Scott never mentioned the hogtie, never mentioned that they’d even touched him, until the video was released. That video I can’t make myself watch, which almost killed my husband when he watched it. Wayne Scott never apologized for his men killing my son.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan never apologized for those police killing my son. She said the chief lied, when she was in front of a crowd and they were shouting at her and she was scared, but she later took that back, like she realized she said something that made her city look bad. She took it back and said the police who killed my son had done nothing wrong. Think about that: Marcus Smith dying like George Floyd died, like John Neville died, that was nothing wrong?

The Greensboro City Council never apologized. Instead, they lied, too. [At-large representative] Marikay Abuzuaiter said the police had to do it because my son had superhuman strength. [District 2 representative] Goldie Wells said maybe it was Marcus’s time to die. The council and the mayor could have told the city manager to fire Wayne Scott, but instead let him retire with a pension, and eight officers that killed my son never even got a reprimand.

Mary Smith closed with a reference to Greensboro city attorney Chuck Watts, who as previously reported, has been criticized for claiming that a retired white civil rights attorney, rather than Black clergy and Democratic party officials, was responsible for recent protests, and for incorrectly referring to that attorney as part of the “Marcus Smith legal team.”

Now they say they can’t talk about it because the Smith family is suing them, while their city attorney tells lies and acts like he doesn’t even know who our lawyers are. The new police chief says he can’t talk about it because of the lawsuit, even though the men who killed my son are still on his force. Rather than admit what their police did and punish the officers for doing it, they’re paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to their lawyers to keep them form having to admit any wrongdoing. I call that being accomplices after the fact in my son’s death.

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