ARKANSAS – DiCello Levitt partner Ken Abbarno and co-counsel for the family Ben Crump held a press conference March 16 at a local church in Little Rock, Arkansas, to demand accountability and the release of bodycam and security footage of the events leading to Terence Caffey’s death.
Caffey was pronounced dead at a Little Rock hospital after going into what the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office called “medical distress” while in the custody of an off duty deputy on December 10, 2021.
Caffey, age 30, was on a date at the Movie Tavern theater seeing House of Gucci, when he walked into the lobby to buy popcorn and ended up dead “at the hands of security, law enforcement, and theater personnel,” Crump alleged.
Abbarno described the case as a “brutal murder.” Dr. Theodore Brown’s autopsy report and the death certificate, both written by individuals who work for the state, have identified this as a homicide. Abbarno said the autopsy describes a man in distress, bound at the feet and hands, with several adults holding him facedown.
The Pulaski County Sheriff Office’s initial statement claimed the deputy had just finished his shift when he saw Caffey in an altercation with several employees. The office says that when the deputy tried to arrest Caffey, “a struggle ensued,” that the Little Rock Police Department was called to assist with the arrest, and that officers called medical personnel to the scene to treat Caffey when he stopped breathing.
Caffey was then transported to a local hospital. It is not clear if he died before, during, or after the drive to the hospital, but one viewer’s description of the video indicated Caffey was dead when the officers put him in the back of their cruiser and walked away, leaving him alone for several minutes.
“Why aren’t they showing us the video?” asked Ben Crump. “They don’t want you to see the video, because they know if you do you’re going to conclude that [Caffey] was the George Floyd of Little Rock,” he predicted.
“This was an aggressive, brutal murder,” said Abbarno. Caffey was not an unusually large or intimidating 30-year-old man. His family described him as six feet tall and around 150 pounds. He wore a colostomy bag. The autopsy indicated Caffey was “bruised, battered, and bleeding” and had a hemorrhage over his hips.
“There’s much more out there that we have not yet had the opportunity to see,” said Abbarno. “We need to see the video so we will be able to hold the right people accountable for what happened.”
“Seeing the video is the only way we get justice for Terence Caffey,” reiterated Crump, calling for a boycott of the Movie Tavern.
“Unfortunately, I have watched the video, and there are images that I wish I could remove from my mind,” said attorney Marion Humphrey, Jr., who Crump described as the next generation. “In addition to telling them he couldn’t breathe, he said, ‘I’m dying,’” reported Humphrey.
Four Pulaski County sheriff’s office employees were placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation but shortly returned to work because, according to department spokesman Lt. Cody Burk, county policy only allows for 10 days of paid administrative leave. The department released the news that the officers had returned to work on January 21 because “agency investigators are close to submitting their findings to prosecutors,” Burk said. Captain Mark Swagerty, the off duty officer who initiated contact with Caffey the night of his death, is restricted to non-law-enforcement duties, pending the conclusion of the investigation.