Johnston County

Johnston DA: Smithfield officers justified in using Tasers on man who died

Town police were justified in using their Tasers and other force to restrain a man who died after being arrested at a McDonald’s restaurant last summer, the Johnston County district attorney announced Friday.

District attorney Susan Doyle said no criminal charges will be filed against the officers relating to the death of 28-year-old Rondrickquiz Williams of Dunn on July 23. Doyle said an autopsy shows Williams died from taking cocaine and from preexisting conditions.

Officers responded to the McDonald’s on West Market Street after getting reports of a man abusing patrons and acting erratically. When the first officer arrived, Williams, holding a cane, grabbed a female patron and tried to use her as a human shield, according to a summary of findings from the district attorney’s investigation.

Williams then pushed the woman aside, ran across the room and threw an elderly man to the ground. At that point, the summary says, Williams came at the officer, and the two started struggling. When backup arrived, officers used their Tasers on Williams multiple times, “with little to no effect.”

“While struggling with officers, Williams was shouting that he was God and the devil and that he was going to die,” according to the summary.

Officers eventually placed Williams in handcuffs and used a restraint device to secure his legs. He lost consciousness briefly while being treated by paramedics, but maintained normal blood pressure readings, according to Doyle’s summary.

After being taken to Johnston Health, Williams, still aggressive and belligerent, tested positive for cocaine and opiates in his system. He started having trouble breathing and a breathing tube was put down his throat. Williams was later transferred to WakeMed, where he died on Aug. 5 after having renal failure and seizures.

An autopsy performed the next day showed Williams died from cocaine toxicity and that a preexisting heart condition may have contributed to his death, according to the summary.

“Any amount of cocaine can precipitate cardiac arrhythmia which can result in cardiac and respiratory arrest,” according to the summary. “The autopsy report also indicates it is unlikely that the deployment of a Taser device contributed to Williams’ death. This is further supported by Williams continuing to have normal blood pressure readings even after being tazed by officers.”

James Crayton, an investigator with the district attorney’s office, said the summary was released after his office received the autopsy earlier this week. Crayton said he and other attorneys, Smithfield police and the medical examiner’s office have been investigating the incident since it occurred last year.

“Any death of a suspect is going to be investigated, just as any other suspicious death would,” Crayton said. Williams’ family also wanted to know what happened, he said.

Crayton said the McDonald’s was full at the time of the incident with Williams, which was recorded on the restaurant’s security cameras.

“From the time he walked in, he was irate and belligerent,” Crayton said. “He was on another level.”