The man was accompanied by a woman and a child as he walked in and out of a Publix grocery store in Central Florida appearing to be “very confused,” possibly on drugs, so a manager called police to have him removed from the store.
West Melbourne police ended up killing him.
The incident, which took place Monday, was captured on police bodycam, but that footage has not been released.
However, video recorded by witnesses show cops tasering him while maintaining a headlock on him, wrestling him down to the floor where the cop maintained a chokehold on him.
“Calm down, sir,” a woman tells the man struggling with the cop.
“Don’t choke him,” she tells the cop on top of him.
But about a minute later, Donald Edward Whitmer Jr. was unresponsive.
The 45-year-old man was pronounced dead at a local hospital. A preliminary autopsy reports that there was “no gross trauma” to the neck.
But they also said that about Eric Garner when he was killed by an NYPD cop in 2014 for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, only to later admit Garner died due to “compression of neck” and “compression of chest.”
Not much information has been released about Whitmer, who neighbors say was a nice guy who kept to himself.
He also had a girlfriend who apparently had a child. It is still not clear if the girlfriend and her child were the woman and child that were seen with him Monday when he was killed but a girl can be heard off-camera repeatedly saying “dad.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel:
The manager of the store called police about 10:40 a.m. to report a man who seemed to be “very confused,” possibly on drugs.
“He’s questioning things but can’t come up with a coherent question,” the manager told 911 dispatchers.
Whitmer apparently left the store but returned later. The manager called dispatchers back to say Whitmer needed to “be removed.”
Officers Jacob Mathis and Kevin Krukoski came back to the store, and the altercation turned physical after Whitmer was uncooperative, according to police.
A video of the incident shows the two officers taking Whitmer down to the ground.
The video shows one officer on top of Whitmer, apparently with his arm around the man’s neck, while the other officer grabs the man’s arm.
A woman can he heard saying “Calm down, sir” and “Don’t choke him.” A bit later, one of the officers says “Hello” to Whitmer, but he doesn’t respond and appears to be unconscious.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it is investigating the incident.
Publix, the most popular grocery store chain in Florida, has recently been coming under fire for making donations to conservative gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, who is pro NRA and anti-LGBTQ, according to the ACLU and the HRC, based on his voting record.
Survivors of the Parkland school shooting are planning a “die-in” protest today at several stores.
Listen to the 911 call about Whitmer here.