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Ala. police release footage of encounter before man’s death

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama authorities on Wednesday released video and audio footage from the night a man died after police said he was pepper sprayed by officers who were trying to take him into custody.

The video, reviewed by The Associated Press, does not show footage of Anthony Ware being sprayed or apprehended, however.

Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steven Anderson told a news conference that not all the department’s officers wear body cameras because of budget issues, several news media outlets reported.

Ware was wanted for attempting to elude police. He was chased into woods Friday night after a caller said he was sitting on the front porch of an apartment. Dashcam footage shows a man running away after patrol cars have stopped on the street.

Officers used pepper spray and handcuffed Ware but he began having trouble breathing, collapsed and later died, authorities have said.

On the video, one officer says Ware is breathing but won’t cooperate. An officer is later heard asking for emergency responders to come check on Ware and police begin administering CPR.

Also on the audio, an officer who is trying to move Ware out of the woods says the suspect isn’t going to go to a hospital. The officer briefly discusses plans about an upcoming vacation, and then officers are heard talking about what they need to do to get Ware up off the ground where he is lying and out of the woods.

An officer later said Ware’s pupils were fixed and dilated, and he didn’t appear to have a pulse. An emergency responder said over the radio that Ware had gone into cardiac arrest and CPR was in progress.

“He ran into the woods and we took him into custody. He started saying he couldn’t breathe and wouldn’t really help us get him out of the woods, but he was still conscious and talking to us,” a female officer is heard saying on the video. “We were doing our best to drag him out of the woods and then he coded.”

Officers initially thought Ware may have been faking a medical emergency after he was detained, Anderson said. In many cases, suspects will pretend to be injured or exaggerate an injury if officers use any force against them, Anderson said. “They prefer to go to the hospital rather than the county jail,” Al.com quoted Anderson as saying.

Body camera footage shows a crowd of black onlookers alleging police brutality when officers emerge from the woods. Some are seen recording police with their cellphones and asking why Ware was unresponsive after he was chased into the woods.

“I got one question: Is he breathing?” one woman asks. “Is he still alive?”

Authorities have not yet released Ware’s official cause of death.

“Although they started out with the goal of taking him into custody, by the end of it that goal had shifted to saving his life,” the Tuscaloosa News quoted Anderson as saying. “I hope people pay attention to that and look at the facts that we have and recognize that we had no malice toward Mr. Ware and we certainly meant him no harm.”

The chief also said the department could only afford to outfit about 60 of its 286 officers with body cameras, but will buy more as funding becomes available.

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