New video shows Christopher Bennett eating unknown items while in a Horry County Sheriff’s Department transport van to J. Reuben Long Detention Center on March 22.
He was unconscious less than an hour after he arrived at the jail and then died in the hospital two days later.
The video, as well as testimonies from people who found Bennett unresponsive in his Horry County jail cell, were part of a recently released state investigative file.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division released a 150-page investigative file, photographs from Bennett’s arrest and transport van video as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. The agency denied a request for body camera footage.
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In late June, the 15th Judicial Circuit Solicitor released a letter that found no wrongdoing in Bennett’s death. That letter stated that an autopsy showed drugs in Bennett’s system, including THC and cocaine.
The letter also states that Bennett consumed drugs during transportation to J. Reuben Long Detention Center. Video provided by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division seems to back up that claim.
In the video, Bennett and Antoneo Wilson, who was also arrested in the incident, get into a Horry County Sheriff transport van. While Wilson’s head blocks some of the camera, Bennett can be seen putting unknown items into his mouth and then chewing and trying to swallow. At one point in the roughly 20-minute video, Bennett hunches over as he chews.
On March 22, police arrested Bennett and Wilson on drug charges following a traffic stop. Drug Enforcement Unit officer Chad Guess wrote that Wilson tried to flee from the arrest into a wooded area, but quickly surrendered.
When police searched the duo’s vehicle, they found .48 grams of heroin. The transport van arrived to take the two to jail on the possession charges.
Several officers searched Bennett and didn’t find drugs.
Bennett was booked into jail at 9:27 p.m. and staff didn’t find any contraband on him.
Quickly after entering a cell, Officer Dayleton Pratt said Bennett was dry-heaving and asked if he needed anything. Bennett said he did not.
Officer Jeffrey Montague wrote that he heard a “repeated thump” coming from Bennett’s cell that sounded like someone was knocking on the floor. He went to the cell and found the 25-year-old lying on his stomach with his arms beside him. Bennet was “beating his head on the floor.”
Staff called a “code black” and 10:19 p.m., which is described as a medical emergency.
Montague wrote that a nurse asked Bennett if he took drugs and he said no.
Medical staff said when they arrived they wiped blood from Bennett’s nose and face so they could assess his injuries. He was non-responsive to verbal commands and had a tooth missing. He then experienced seizure-like episodes, according to the report. Bennett also stopped breathing and staff performed CPR as well as used a defibrillator.
EMS personnel arrived and took Bennett by ambulance to Conway Medical Center where he died days later.
Another inmate reported Wilson made a phone call during booking and said that Bennett “ate the bomb” and “he ate too much and is not going to make it.”
During an interview with investigators, Wilson said that someone “did something to Bennett.” When asked if Bennett took medication, Wilson responded, “I don’t know if you would call it medication.”
Wilson got angry when an investigator asked if Bennett ate drugs. He said Bennett had a problem and they all knew what happened. Wilson said he did not know what Bennett ate or the amount. Wilson then invoked his right to remain silent.
The day after he died, a doctor did an autopsy on Bennett and found two punctured drug bags in his digestive system. Bennett also had no evidence of external trauma other than the missing tooth and lip laceration. There were no defensive injuries or bruising to his body.
Toxicology reports found THC, hydrocodone, cocaine and benzodiazepines in Bennett’s system.
The cause of death was listed as “drug-induced cardiac arrhythmia.”