ATLANTA -- The family of 32-year-old Antonio May of Macon said they need answers for why their loved one died while in the custody of the Fulton County jail earlier in September.
May was arrested on Sept. 11 on a trespassing violation. After his arrest, May was booked into the Fulton County Jail, where authorities initially said he fought with staff and refused direct orders.
An official account relayed to 11Alive News on Sept. 12 indicated that May was tased and pepper sprayed during this particular confrontation and died after he was "decontaminated."
A report from the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office provided to 11Alive News by May's family attorney, Michael Harper, said May was seen inside a holding cell by a deputy, naked and pleasuring himself. That report said six deputies "assembled" before May and ordered him to place his hands behind his back, which he reportedly refused to do.
“What we do know is that he was brought here a healthy man, and he left here dead the same day," said Harper.
According to that report, May was tased as deputies entered the cell and when officers attempted to restrain him, "he began fighting and kicking at them, squirming and swinging on the ground..." May was allegedly tased twice more and then pepper sprayed.
Deputies eventually restrained May with handcuffs, leg irons and waist chains. After decontamination from the pepper spray, he became unresponsive and died.
“This was a tragic, senseless death," Harper said.
Suliman Hasan, an inmate who was at the jail that day spoke to 11Alive's Jon Shirek on FaceTime. According to him, there was no reason from what he could see, for the guards to go into May's cell in the first place, much less to tase him.
"They pulled him out of his cell for being nothing more than a nusiance to the guards, and tased him and pepper-sprayed him to death," Hasan said.
Fulton County jail officials said they would not comment on ongoing investigations. But May's family attorneys held a news conference Tuesday afternoon where they discussed three separate descriptions of what they were told allegedly happened to May.
“This event occurred with all African American officers, and an African American male. It is not about race," said Teddy Reese, an attorney for the family. "Yes, it was Antonio May today. But it could be your uncle, your father, your daddy, your brother, your son, tomorrow.”
According to an inmate eyewitness, in the first of three accounts of what happened, May was in a holding cell, banging on the door, requesting water.
That apparently upset some of the guards who then entered the cell. According to the witness, they literally entered the cell and beat him for asking for water.
The eyewitness said two guards then entered the cell and tased May simultaneously before he was pepper sprayed.
The second account of what happened was from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who said three guards approached May while he was in his cell, naked.
The guards allegedly wanted to strap May down in a restraining chair while inside the jail cell. The GBI said May was tased, then pepper sprayed, before being taken into a shower to be decontaminated due to the amount of pepper spray that was used on his face.
After he was removed from the shower area, the GBI said May became unresponsive and died.
A third account of May's death was the story relayed by the Fulton County Medical Examiner's office as noted to them by deputies at the jail.
Included in the medical examiner's office description was an indication of the use of a water hose turned on May's face because, according to attorneys, the jail guards felt they did not get all of the pepper spray off of May's face. The final autopsy results for May are still pending. His cause of death remains undetermined.
The GBI's investigation of May's death has not concluded yet, but upon its completion, May's family attorneys are asking the Fulton County District Attorney's Office to vigorously investigate not only May's death but also conditions inside the jail in general.
11Alive requested statistics on the number of in-custody deaths inside the Fulton County Jail for 2017 and 2018. According to the Fulton County Sheriff's Office, there were nine inmate deaths, four suicides and four natural deaths in 2017. One additional death was ruled accidental by autopsy.
So far, in 2018, the Fulton County Sheriff's Office said there have been seven inmate deaths, three suicides and three natural deaths. An autopsy on an additional death is still pending.