The U.S. Department of Justice has determined that there is insufficient evidence to pursue civil rights charges in the case of Everett Palmer Jr., a U.S. Army veteran whose death while in custody at York County Prison in 2018 drew national attention.
Palmer, 41, of Seaford, Delaware, died on April 9, 2018, after corrections officers extracted him from his cell when he started banging his head on the door. He had been incarcerated for two days in a DUI case.
The York County Coroner's Office reported that his cause of death was "complications following an excited state, associated with methamphetamine toxicity, during physical restraint." Probable sickling red cell disorder was cited as a contributory factor.
The manner of death, the coroner stated, was undetermined.
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In a two-page statement on Thursday, U.S. Attorney John Gurganu said federal investigators looked at all the evidence and materials that the Pennsylvania State Police and York County District Attorney's Office collected in the case, which included statements, videos and medical reports.
Gurganu said authorities concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that corrections officers used "objectively unreasonable" force or showed "deliberate indifference" to Palmer's medical needs. Law enforcement also determined that there was not enough to indicate that any of them acted with "the specific intent to break the law."
"Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed," Gurganu said. "This decision is limited strictly to the department's inability to meet the high legal standard required to prosecute the case under the federal civil rights statute; it does not reflect an assessment of any other aspect of this incident."
The York Daily Record/Sunday News earlier this year reported on the existence of the federal investigation.
The announcement comes nine months after York County District Attorney Dave Sunday stated that his office had concluded that no probable cause existed to file criminal charges in the case.
"The reality is that I will have no words that will ever soften the devastating and endless feelings of pain and loss that the Palmer family possesses as a result of this tragic death," Sunday said at a news conference. "Especially under circumstances that, to them, were unknown."
The York County District Attorney's Office released a 174-page investigating grand jury report that detailed how Palmer binged on methamphetamine before his death and reached a dangerous phase that featured symptoms that mimicked mental health conditions.
The investigating grand jury came back with 24 recommendations.
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Shane Weaver, business agent for Teamsters Local 776, which represents corrections officers at York County Prison, could not immediately be reached.
Lee Merritt and John Coyle, the Palmer family's attorneys, also could not immediately be reached.
Palmer's death attracted national media attention in The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN. His mother, Rose, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg in 2020, which is pending.
Contact Dylan Segelbaum at 717-771-2102.
This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Everett Palmer Jr.: No federal charges in death at York County Prison