Prosecutors in New Jersey are investigating how a 27-year-old man who walked into a police station, apparently high on drugs, wound up unresponsive while being transported by police to the hospital -- then declared dead two days later.
Protesters swarmed Paterson City Hall Tuesday night, demanding answers in the death of Jameek Lowery.
"What did those cops do? What are they not telling us?" one protester asked.
"It's still hurting, I'm just lost. I'm hurt," said his mother.
Lowery first called 911 at around 2:45 a.m. on Saturday, saying he had taken ecstasy and was paranoid, according to a preliminary investigation by the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office. EMS responded and took him to a local hospital, but Lowery became erratic there and left.
At around 3:40 a.m., Lowery again called 911, this time from a Wendy's restaurant near Broadway and Memorial Drive, saying people were trying to kill him, the prosecutor's office said. He walked into the Paterson Police headquarters nearby at 111 Broadway, appearing agitated.
While inside police headquarters, he called 911 yet again. Lowery live streamed to his Facebook page from inside the police station, shouting in an apparent fit of paranoia, "Please don't shoot me. This officer by the wall, I see you, they're trying to kill me. They right there!"
The video didn't show anyone by the corner that Lowery was focused on -- only a shadow -- and the two officers in the video told him that nobody was there.
"I'm just paranoid, that's it," Lowery acknowledged, continuing to shout frantically.
He ranted, at times incoherently, "I see y'all trying to kill me. Why are you trying to kill me? What'd I do, officer? ... I said I need help, I need help, go to the hospital, somebody trying to kill me. Somebody help me."
"Somebody call my mom. The cops trying to kill me, they think I'm a witness, they think I'm f---ing with the FBI. That's what they think."
"Watch out, if I'm dead by the next hour or two, they did it," he shouted in the video. "I didn't touch them at all."
When the officers assured him an ambulance was on the way, he responded, "Yo, they're gonna kill me in the ambulance."
The officers maintained their distance while Lowery recorded on his cellphone, and attempted to calm him from afar: "All right, just relax," one told him. When he told them he was dehydrated and needed water, someone is heard telling him, "The hospital has water."
EMS arrived and an ambulance transported him to the hospital, a ride that took about 5 to 12 minutes, according to police and fire records. Sometime in that ride, he lost consciousness.
"Per initial reports and information, police used physical force and compliance holds to secure Mr. Lowery in the ambulance," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
When Lowery arrived at the hospital, he was unresponsive. Hospital records didn't indicate any acute trauma, but his parents and friends said he ended up bloodied and bruised when they saw him at the hospital. His mother said he had stitches on his mouth and bruises on his neck as if somebody had choked him; he did not have those injuries in the Facebook video.
He was pronounced dead in the early morning hours of Monday, Jan. 7. The state medical examiner will determine the cause and manner of death for Lowery, the prosecutor's office said.
Hundreds angered by Lowery's death surrounded City Hall Tuesday night. And councilman Luis Velez joined for an independent investigation.
Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said in a statement, "I completely support a full investigation into Saturday evening’s events. In the meantime, I have expressed my condolences to the family of Mr. Lowery, who are suffering during this difficult time."