Las Vegas

When Byron Williams Died Saying ‘I Can't Breathe,' Few Protested. Now His Family Is Fighting for Justice

Protestors hold signs and march along the Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 29, 2020, in a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white policeman kneeled on his neck for several minutes.
Photo by Bridget BENNETT / AFP

Jeffery Thompkins stood at a community rally with thousands of protesters this month, listening as they chanted, "I can't breathe." They were shouting the last words of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25 with an officer's knee on his neck.

Thompkins, 32, said he closed his eyes, holding back tears. He had heard the words before, nearly nine months earlier. But the voice he heard back then belonged to Byron Lee Williams, his mother's fiancé, NBC News reported.

On Sept. 5, two Las Vegas police officers arrested Williams, 50, who was Black, for riding a bicycle without a safety light. Body camera video released by police showed the officers chasing Williams, holding him on the ground, handcuffed, and kneeling on his back before lifting him upright and dragging him away. Williams repeatedly told officers, "I can't breathe." He said it at least 17 times before he died, according to the police video.

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Williams' family, community activists and civil rights advocates say it is hard to understand why Williams' death did not spark the same outrage or face the same public scrutiny as Floyd's. In part, they believe it is because Las Vegas police controlled the narrative by releasing only some of the bodycam video to the public. No charges have been filed against officers connected to the case.

Read the full story of Byron Williams' case on NBCNews.com.

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