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George Floyd's attorney joins call for justice against Canton police

Attorney Ben Crump (left) and attorney Bobby DiCello (right) speak during a news conference at a Canton church to call for accountability and justice two weeks after Frank Tyson died in police custody.
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Attorney Ben Crump (left) and attorney Bobby DiCello (right) speak during a news conference at a Canton church to call for accountability and justice two weeks after Frank Tyson died in police custody.

In a church on the east side of Canton Thursday morning, Angela Rembert recalled seeing her cousin, 53-year-old Frank Tyson, for the first time since he was released from his 24-year prison sentence last month.

“Anyone who knows anything about Frank, his laugh was contagious. He greeted me with a hug like no hug I’ve ever had. It was so tight,” Rembert said.

Less than two weeks later, Tyson died while in police custody.

His family, legal team and members of the Canton community held a press conference at St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church to call for justice and for the police officers involved to be held accountable.

Ben Crump, who has represented families of high-profile victims of police killings, including George Floyd, spoke alongside the family at the press conference.

“How many more Black men in America have to tell police ‘I can’t breathe’ before police believe these Black men, fighting for their lives?” Crump said.

Crump and Tyson family attorney Bobby DiCello compared Tyson’s death to the murder of Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020, noting the Canton police officer’s response to Tyson as he repeatedly yelled that he couldn’t breathe.

“You’re fine. Shut the (expletive) up,” one of the officers is heard saying in the body camera footage.

“When you say the quiet part out loud, everyone needs to pay attention,” DiCello said during the news conference. “These officers killed Frank and did so saying the quiet part out loud. They told him to shut the “f” up.”

Dozens of community members attended the news conference and shouted phrases and chants calling for justice.

Tyson was arrested April 18 after reportedly getting into a crash and leaving the scene. Two Canton police officers, Beau Schoenegge and Camden Burch, located him at a nearby AMVETS building.

Bodycam shows that as officers entered the building, Tyson began yelling “Call the sheriff” and "They’re going to kill me.”

Officers struggled to get Tyson on the ground as he repeatedly yelled that he couldn’t breathe. One officer eventually put his knee on Tyson’s back.

About seven minutes passed as Tyson lay on the ground motionless before officers administered CPR.

“I don’t know where you were trained at. That should be police training 101 in America. Don’t put your knee on my neck,” Crump said.

The use-of-force incident is being investigated by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The officers have been placed on paid administrative leave. Autopsy results are pending and expected to be released in a minimum of five weeks, according to the Stark County coroner’s office.

Tyson had been recently released from prison after serving 24 years for a kidnapping charge. Tyson’s family believes he was wrongfully convicted, Crump said.

“He pleaded his innocence every day,” Crump said.

Tyson was in distress when the police entered the building because of his previous experiences with the police, Crump added.

“He was mortified of the Canton Police Department,” Crump said. “They didn’t just steal his liberty this time. They stole his life.”

Tyson’s fiancée, Sabrina Jones, tearfully said that in the days before his death, they were attempting to meet with attorneys and file paperwork to try to clear his name.

“When Frank got sentenced to 24 years, he started working on his case. He didn’t stop until the end, when he got out,” Jones said. “He was determined to his innocence.”

The Stark County NAACP has requested the U.S. Department of Justice open an investigation into Tyson’s death.

Corrected: May 2, 2024 at 3:34 PM EDT
The headline in an earlier version of the story incorrectly indicated that a lawsuit had been filed.
Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.