Video shows Gretna officers struggle with suspect before he dies in custody

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GRETNA, La. -- Gretna Police has released surveillance video from a Feb. 7 struggle with a suspect who died two days after his encounter with police.

The video, which shows officers trying to detain Kendole Joseph after he hops over the counter of the Save A Dollar convenience store, was released Thursday night after Joseph's family and their attorneys have publicly accused the department of killing Joseph and trying to cover up his death.

According to the Gretna Police Department, officers were called to Gretna Middle School the afternoon of Feb. 7, when an administrator told police there was a man in front of the school "acting erratically and displaying aberrant behavior."

When officers arrived, the man, later identified as Joseph, reportedly fled on foot, prompting officers to call for backup as police engaged in a foot chase.

That's when Joseph ran into the convenience store and dove over the counter, all of which can be seen in the surveillance video above.

The video also shows the store clerk behind the counter when Joseph jumped.

Several officers ran behind the counter to detain Joseph, and a six-and-a-half minute struggle ensued.

During the struggle, one officer used a taser on Joseph, but Joseph did not respond.

Joseph continued to combat and resist officers, who were eventually able to detain him using leg restraints. Officers put Joseph in the back of a police unit, and several minutes later they noticed that Joseph "appeared to be in distress," police said.

Emergency responders were already on scene and began to render aid. He was taken to a local hospital and died two days later on Feb. 9.

The Jefferson Parish Coroner's Office has determined that Joseph died of "acute psychosis exacerbated by (Benadryl) toxicity in setting of schizophrenia while in police custody."

Joseph was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and had been "in crisis for quite some time," police said. He had been off of his medications and had been having "episodes," witnesses told police.

According to Gretna Police, the coroner found no broken bones or any other skeletal damage, nor did he find any organ damage or hemorrhaging.

The family has repeatedly called on police to release the video. Attorneys for the family still contend that Joseph was murdered by police.

Attorneys for Joseph's family said the Gretna Police Department did not let the family view the video before releasing it to the media.

"We just watched Kendole Joseph being beaten and murdered on the surveillance footage," attorney Michael Oppenheimer said in a prepared statement. "His family is hurt by this video because it proves what they already knew ... Kendole did not commit a crime or was not suspected of a crime and they continued to overpower and beat him after they had him subdued."

Joseph's mother has said that she called police the day of the struggle, asking for help in finding Joseph while he was having his episodes. She contends that Gretna Police knew about Joseph's condition, but officers said that's not the case.

Gretna Police, meanwhile, maintain that officers acted appropriately and responded reasonably to the situation.

"Officers responded to a potentially deadly encounter with a much lower level of force ... than could have been justified under the circumstances

The family's attorney plans to hold a press conference Friday to discuss the video.

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