RALEIGH COUNTY, WV (WVNS) — On the same day Beckley Police Department and the City of Beckley released police video of Quantez Burks’ arrest, an Atlanta civil rights attorney working in conjunction with Benjamin Crump called on Governor Jim Justice to release video of Burks’ last hours inside Southern Regional Jail.
Burks, 37, was arrested at his Adkins Avenue home in Beckley on February 28, 2022. He died on March 1, 2022 after being incarcerated fewer than 24 hours at the jail.
On Tuesday, his mother, Kimberly Burks, and fiancée, Latasha Williams, released photographs showing injuries on Burks’ body.
Taken by a Beckley funeral director, the photographs show severe bruising on his head, face and knees as well as a series of lacerations on top of Burks’ head.
Matt Harman, the Atlanta civil rights attorney who represents Burks’ family, said Thursday, May 25, 2023, he had viewed a bystander’s video of the arrest earlier and that it does not appear arresting officers caused Burks’ injuries.
“They shock the conscience,” Harman, a Fairmont native, said of the photographs. “We want the truth. We want all video and records of this incident released to us, and to the public at-large,” said Harman.
Harman said the Burks family wants those responsible for Burks’ death to be identified publicly and fired as well as criminally prosecuted, if appropriate.
“And we also call on Governor Justice to release a comprehensive plan that we can put into place so that this doesn’t happen again at the Southern Regional Jail,” said Harman.
Beckley Police Department video shows officers arresting Burks after he admitted to firing a gun in the direction of a cat. Burks, a landlord, said he had asked his tenant to remove cats from the house.
The alleged victim told police the bullets had struck into his house only a few feet from where he had been standing.
On the police video, Burks appeared to resist arrest by not cooperating when police handcuffed him and when he did not willingly enter the police cruiser.
At one point, an officer appeared to hold Burks’ face onto the floor and appeared to kick the back of his knees multiple times when Burks seemed to resist. Assisting officers calmly encouraged Burks to comply at various times.
Police judged Burks to be under the influence and made a decision to take him to jail, calling a Raleigh County magistrate to make arrangements.
During the ride to the jail, Burks said multiple times he did not want to go to the jail and requested to go to a courthouse instead.
The transporting officer did not make physical contact with Burks during the drive according to the video.
Once at the jail, corrections officers met Burks at the car. Burks appeared to get out of the car willingly and seemed to willingly walk to the entrance of Southern Regional Jail with the BPD officer and corrections officers walking with him.
The BPD officer remarked during the drop-off, “That was easier than I was expecting.” The BPD officer also notified jail staff it was possible Burks was under the influence of a substance. The video ends before Burks enters the jail.
On the day Burks died, West Virginia Department of Homeland Security officials reported Burks was “combative” once inside the jail.
“He was combative, both during the admission process, and later that evening,” Lawrence Messina, a former spokesperson for WVDHS, stated on March 1, 2022. “He was again combative at around 10 a.m. the following morning, assaulting multiple staff while attempting to force his way out of the section.”
Messina said Burks was taken to “administrative segregation” and collapsed when staff put him into a cell.
“Staff immediately provided emergency medical assistance but were unable to save him,” Messina added.
The West Virginia Medical Examiner’s Officer ruled Burks’ death was caused by heart disease. A private autopsy conducted by Pennsylvania pathologist Cyril Wecht showed blunt force trauma to Burks’ head, feet, torso, arms, legs and feet.
Harman called on Governor Jim Justice to release video taken at the jail of Burks.
“There’s no reason for us to guess about what happened,” Harman said. “Show us the video, so we all know what happened.”
Governor Jim Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The United States Department of Justice is investigating Burks’ death.