YORK COUNTY — A York County grand jury could be looking into the death of a Delaware man in York County Prison, a York Daily Record report claims.
The newspaper cites emails between the attorney representing the family of Everett Palmer Jr., who died in the prison on April 9, 2018, and York County District Attorney Dave Sunday. The emails were attached to a petition that the family’s attorney filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg.
YDR says the subject of the grand jury’s investigation has been kept secret for months.
In an email to Sunday dated May 30, 2019, Dan Purtell, one of the attorneys representing Palmer’s family, wrote that he was reaching out on behalf of the family in the hopes of learning whatever he could about the current status of the investigation.
“After our meeting of 11/29/18 the family and myself were reassured by your candor and commitment to the grand jury process,” Purtell wrote. “It has now been 6 months, without any additional insight and the family is understandably anxious.”
Sunday’s reply, which was also attached to the petition, indicated that the district attorney understood the family’s desire for updates, but said he was prohibited by law from sharing any details.
“The only update by law I’m permitted to give is that the grand jury proceedings are ongoing and the matter continues to be under investigation,” Sunday wrote. “As you recall, information before the grand jury and the grand jury proceedings must remain secret by law. Therefore I am constrained and precluded from discussing those details with anyone including you and Mr. Palmer’s family.
“Please know that I am committed to obtaining the truth concerning Mr. Palmer’s death and I will continue to invest the resources of this office and the York County community to achieve that result,” Sunday added in closing.
Palmer’s family has been outspoken in its desire for answers since the veteran and former U.S. Army paratrooper died in the prison.
After failing to comply with commands to stop, Palmer got into a scuffle with corrections officers, who opened the door with a tactical shield and used a Taser device on him twice before using physical techniques, shackles, handcuffs, and a restraint chair to restrain him, according to authorities.
The scuffle lasted more than 23 minutes, and Palmer was transported to the prison’s medical unit in the restraint chair, where he was noted to be unresponsive. Efforts to resuscitate Palmer were unsuccessful, and he was transported to York Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, authorities said.
The York County Coroner’s Office performed an autopsy, and concluded that Palmer’s cause of death was “complications following an excited state, associated with Methamphetamine Toxicity, during physical restraint.” It added a contributing factor to be “probable sickling red cell disorder.”
Palmer’s family questioned those conclusions, and later hired a forensic pathologist and neuropathologist to conduct a second autopsy, which concluded that the manner of death should be ruled a homicide — meaning his death came at the hands of another person.
Dr. Zhongxue Hua said Palmer would not have died had he not been violently restrained, according to an article in the New York Times.
The story received national attention, and both the York County Coroner’s Office and the York County District Attorney’s Office reported receiving death threats in the wake of the outcry.