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Harold Easter's in-custody death: Sequence of events

CMPD has released the sequence of events beginning with Harold Easter's January 23 traffic stop.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Following the announcement Friday morning that four Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department officers and one sergeant would be cited for termination for the in-custody death of Harold Easter, CMPD released what they called a "sequence of events" beginning with Easter's initial January 23 traffic stop.

The document provided to WCNC Charlotte from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department does not include times or identities. CMPD themselves advised it's not truly a "timeline" but rather a "sequence."

At this time, WCNC Charlotte does not know what time, and for what duration, these events occurred. We cannot determine if this is a full sequence of events or if anything could have been omitted. However we felt it was important to share with the public what CMPD had released.

Video of some of these happenings will be released to the public on October 1st.

While the documentation does not identify which law enforcement officer is which, WCNC Charlotte does know the identities of the five cited for termination. They are:

Sgt. Nicolas Vincent, Officer Brentley Vinson, Officer Michael Benfield, Officer Michael Joseph and Officer Shon Sheffield had remained on administrative leave in the midst of an internal investigation.  

  • Sergeant Nicolas Vincent was hired on January 28, 2008, and was assigned to the Metro Division.
  • Officer Brentley Vinson was hired on July 21, 2014, and was assigned to the Metro Division. Vinson is the same officer who shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in 2016. At the time, a review board concluded he had followed proper procedure and prosecutors cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing.
  • Officer Michael Benfield was hired on October 27, 2014, and was assigned to the Metro Division.
  • Officer Michael Joseph was hired on May 21, 2018, and was assigned to the Metro Division.
  • Officer Shon Sheffield was hired on August 13, 2012, and was assigned to the Metro Division.

A criminal investigation into the death of Easter remains open by the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's office.

The five have the opportunity to appeal their citation for termination.

RELATED: Five CMPD officers cited for termination for in-custody death of Harold Easter

Sequence of events in the internal investigation into the in-custody death of Harold Easter 

What follows is documentation provided by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. The unedited sequence of events begins with the initial January 23 traffic stop of Harold Easter and concludes with the January 26 death of Easter.

Officer 1 attempts initial traffic stop of Easter’s vehicle

Officer 1 shuts off BWC

Officer 1 attempts traffic stop again and exits vehicle. Traffic stop occurred at Whisnant Street and Burton Street

Officer 1 observes Easter eating cocaine

“Don’t eat it!”

“He’s eating it!”

“Hands up!”

Officer 2 arrives at the scene

Officer 2 walks over to Officer 1. Officer 1 tells him that he was crushing up the crack when he was stopped

Officer 2 gets evidence envelopes out and begins assisting Officer 1 with the collection of the evidence

Officer 1 places Easter under arrest

Officer 1 spontaneously utters “He was crushing up his crack but he didn’t eat it all.”

Officer 1 turns custody of Easter over to Officer 3

Officer 1 begins the process of collecting and cataloging the drugs in the vehicle


Officer 3 takes custody of Easter from Officer 1

Officer 3 searched Easter at the rear of the marked police vehicle

Officer 4 approaches Officer 1 and says “I mean, he ate whatever he had (referring to Easter). Officer 1 says “no, he didn’t get all of it…when I was fighting him, he was crushing part of it...we probably got an 8 ball right there (pointing to the driver’s floorboard area).

Officer 4 walks away and goes over and searches one of the passengers in the vehicle

Officer 4 has no other interaction with Easter

Officer 3 “You have crack all over your tongue.”

Officer 3 to Officer 5 “He has crack all over his tongue.” Officer 5 “Yeah, he was trying to eat it.”

Officer 5 to Easter “Lips going numb, ain’t they brother?” and walks away

Officer 3 puts Officer 5 in the rear of the police vehicle

Officer 4 turns off his BWC

Officer 5 sits in the marked car in the passenger seat and is working on the computer. The following is conversation with Easter:

E: I’m dehydrated officer

O5: Bro, you’ve got cocaine on your tongue…it’s gonna happen when you try to eat cocaine.

E: It is what it is

O5: I can’t give you anything to drink

E: Why, so I die of dehydration?

O5: You’re not gonna die of dehydration

Officer 5 calls in traffic stop over the radio at Whisnant Street and Burton Street

Four additional Metro Division officers arrive at the scene and provide scene security. None of the officers have any contact or interaction with Mr. Easter

Officer 3 turns off his BWC

Officer 2 goes over to the marked police vehicle and has the following conversation:

O2: You’re gonna stop yelling

E: Please don’t make me pee on myself

O2: That’s not my problem

E: Can I get some water, I’m dehydrated and I gotta pee

O2: Why would water help you with your pee situation?

E: I’m dehydrated cause…I ain’t gonna lie to you…I tried to swallow the weed and a little bit of the rocks cause I was gonna smoke a fly and my mouth is dry and I’m getting dehydrated Sarg.

O2: Ok, well, when we are through with this we will go take you to use the restroom

E: Sarg can you let me piss right here?

O2: No, you cannot

E: In the woods?

O2: No

E: I’m gonna pee on myself

O2: Than we can get you in a jumpsuit

Officer 2 walks away from Easter

Officer 1 is driving. Officer 5 is in the front passenger seat. They leave the scene and drive to the Metro Division Team office

Officer 2 turns off BWC

Officer 1 arrives at the Metro Division team office

Officer 1 is walking Easter into the team office. Easter says to Officer 1 “you know cause I swallowed some you ain’t let me get water.”

Officer 1 clears the bathroom. Turns off BWC for strip search

Officer 5 turns off his BWC

At the conclusion of the strip search, Officer 1 turns on BWC and clears the bathroom. Officer 1 shuts off BWC

Officer 5 walks Easter into interview room

Easter is shackled to the floor with leg shackles

Officer 5 tells Easter “in 5 minutes I’m gonna come back and get you.” Easter says “are you sure?” Officer 5 says “yeah.”

Officer 5 leaves the interview room

Easter spontaneously shouts “everyone who with me knows we smoke rocks…that’s what we do.”

Easter shouts “Can I please get some water Sarg?”

Easter asks ‘Sir Can I please get some water?”

Officer 4 opens the door and speaks with Easter. Conversation was indecipherable

Officer 4 returns and asks if Easter wants water or use the bathroom

Officer 4 returns with a cup of water and gives it to Easter

An Officer is walking by and opens the door. Easter says ‘Are you the Sarg?” Where is the Sarg at?”

Easter begins knocking on the table. Says “Can I get some water? Please?”

Easter is standing up and begins to shake

Easter says “You think I’m gonna die. But I’m not. Ya’all gonna die. But I’m not.”

Easter begins clawing at the table

Easter collapses face down on the table and is bent over at the waist

Easter falls off the table and has a seizure on the floor

Officer 2 opens the door, sees Easter on the floor and yells out to ‘Get MEDIC, Get MEDIC”

Officer 1 turns on his BWC as he and Officer 2 run down the hall

Officer takes the leg shackle off

Easter is moved from the interview room to the hallway

Unknown Officer asks about an AED. Unknown Officer says, “yeah, it is not working.”

Officer 1 begins CPR chest compressions

During this time, Officer 2 administers two doses of Narcan

CFD asks about circumstances and Officer 1 says “We stopped him for suspected drugs and he tried eating it when we walked up to the car but we stopped him from eating it. We didn’t think anything was wrong.”

Officer 1 turns off his BWC

Friday 1/24/2020

Email sent out to Media Release with initial background information

All 5 Officer’s placed on administrative leave with pay

Sunday 1/26/2020

Easter passes away at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center

Email sent out to Media Release advising Easter passed away