BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — The family of a 37-year-old man who died at Southern Regional Jail in 2022 has released photographs of the man’s body. The photos were taken at the funeral home days after the West Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office had conducted an autopsy.
A report of Southern Regional Jail deaths provided to 59News by the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security under a Freedom of Information (FOIA) filing in October lists the date of the man’s death along with a ruling that he died a natural death caused by heart disease.
Quantez Burks was arrested at his Adkins Avenue home on February 28, 2022, for wanton endangerment after allegedly firing a firearm during an argument with a tenant. During this time he was also charged with obstruction of an officer.
A bystander’s video shows Burks on the floor of his porch with three officers apparently handcuffing him. It then shows the three officers walking him to a waiting police cruiser. Burks stopped a few times in what seems to be protest of the arrest. Each time, one of the officers appeared to kick the back of Burks’ knee. The force of the kicks did not cause Burks to fall.
Burks died on March 1, 2022, after spending fewer than twenty-four hours at Southern Regional Jail. The Burks family reported Southern Regional Jail staff posted an older mugshot on the jail website and did not notify them of Burks’ death.
Burks’ fiancée, Latasha Williams of Beckley, said a worker in the Raleigh County Magistrate’s Office notified her of Burks’ death when she called to post his bond on the afternoon of March 1, 2022.
His mother, Kimberly Burks, said she was unable to locate his body because the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation did not notify her of his death prior to sending his body to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Charleston.
The director of a Beckley funeral home took photographs of the body and urged Kimberly Burks to get a private autopsy. Those pictures show bruises and swelling on Burks’ head and face, gaping wounds in both knees and a series of lacerations on top of his head.
“It broke my heart,’’ said Williams. “The only thing they wanna say is ‘natural causes.’ Show me one thing in here was natural causes.”
Kimberly Burks said the funeral home took special steps to cover injuries during Burks’ wake.
“He had to have a scarf and a du-rag on, and we also had to put a hat on him,” she said. “His hands were messed up too, and he had to have gloves on him.”
The Burks family said the State Medical Examiner’s Office has never spoken with them about their findings or provided a copy of the autopsy report.
The family paid for well-known pathologist Cyril Wecht in Pennsylvania to perform the second autopsy.
The private autopsy showed Burks’ wrists were severely injured but did not mention defensive marks. His family said they believe he was beaten while wearing handcuffs.
Wecht also ruled Burks had recent blunt force trauma on his head and neck, arms, legs and torsos. His body was covered from head to toe by injuries according to Wecht’s report.
“We don’t have anything to hide,” Kimberly Burks said on May 13, 2023. “It’s just that we want the public to know, and we want this taken serious.”
Kimberly Burks said she believes the State Medical Examiner’s Office failed to properly investigate Burks’ injuries. She added that she wants Southern Regional Jail staff to contact her regarding her son’s last hours.
“Y’all owe him something,” she said, referencing various offices of the State of West Virginia. “Ya’ll owe him an apology he’ll never hear. Ya’ll owe him something. Because this is not acceptable. Nowhere.”
The family said they would like to view video taken inside of the Beckley Police Department cruiser during Burks’ transport to Southern Regional Jail.
Beckley attorney Bill File is reviewing a FOIA request by 59News to obtain the video.