'I can't breathe': Man dies in police custody, body cameras turned off during arrest

Byron Williams, 50, died while in police custody. His family wants answers. (LVMPD)

LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — "I can't breathe." Those would be the last words 50-year-old Byron Williams would ever say. He can be heard repeating them over and over as Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officers placed him under arrest around 5:45 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5.

Two officers tried to stop Williams near Bonanza Road and MLK Boulevard for riding his bicycle with no safety lights.

That’s when video shows Williams take off running, and the officers chase him down and handcuff him.

After repeatedly telling the officers he couldn’t breathe, body camera footage shows the officers stand Williams up, and you can see him appearing to try to hide drugs.

Moments later, his body goes limp.

RELATED| Body cam footage released from deadly police shooting

Officers drag him off around 5:55 a.m., and that’s when the footage stops for at least seven minutes after officers turn off their body cameras.


“There were seven or eight officers there. Every video camera went off at the exact same time,” said Kelly Williams, Byron’s daughter,

The body cameras came back on around 6:10 a.m. as paramedics were performing CPR on Byron.

Doctors at Valley Hospital pronounced Williams dead just before 6:45 a.m. His family wants answers as to what happened while the cameras were off, why they were shut off in the first place and why no one helped Williams after he told them he couldn’t breathe.

RELATED| Henderson police release body cam footage from Sept. 22 officer-involved shooting

“When you hear someone say they can’t breathe, it’s protocol to turn them on their side,” said his niece, Teena Acree. “It’s not okay, it’s unacceptable, those officers need to be held accountable.”

LVMPD says it is investigating to figure out why the body cameras were turned off and what happened while they were. The two officers who started the chase have been placed on leave during the investigation.

The coroner has not yet determined the cause of death.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off