By Dylan Campbell
In April, Queens native and military veterans Everett Palmer turned himself in to police for a DUI warrant in Pennsylvania.
Two days later he was dead.
Nearly six months later, Palmer’s family, friends and local leaders are still searching for answers to how and why Palmer died in police custody.
On Sunday, dozens of demonstrators — many holding signs with the names of people of color killed by police — filled Maranatha Baptist Church for the official launch of a phone campaign to demand information about Palmer’s death.
“We come in peace but we want action,” said Dwayne Palmer, Everett’s brother. “We want some accountability. Clearly something went wrong. My brother didn’t die, you know, mysteriously. There was a cause.”
The phone campaign urges participants to call the York County District Attorney and ask for the prosecutor to appoint a grand jury for the “homicide death of Everett Palmer Jr.”
According to court documents, Everett crashed a Honda Accord in Codorus Township just after 2 a.m. in October 2016. After failing to respond to a court summons, the judge on his case issued a warrant for Palmer’s arrest in January 2017.
Dwayne said that when Everett moved to Delaware, he didn’t know there was a warrant out for him. When he found out, he turned himself in to police. He was arrested and taken to another precinct to the York County Prison.
The York County Coroner's Office said that Palmer was in his one-person cell when he started hitting his head against his door after becoming agitated. Prison staff reportedly restrained Palmer and took him to the prison's medical clinic. He was pronounced dead at 5:46 a.m. on April 9 at York Hospital, The York Daily Record reported.
After Dwayne and other advocated demonstrated to demand more information, York County performed an updated autopsy.
In July, York County Coroner Pam Gay listed the cause of death in the updated autopsy as "complications following an excited state, associated with methamphetamine toxicity, during physical restraint," Pennsylvania radio station WITF reported.
But the autopsy did not explain why Palmer’s toxicology report showed the presence of methamphetamine in his system even though he spent two days in police custody.
Dwayne said he thinks authorities have withheld information and said that he suspects his brother’s death was a homicide.
A York County representative told the Eagle that the county could not provide comment because the investigation is ongoing.
Dwayne said he hasn’t heard anything about the investigation since. When he made the first call Sunday, he said the person who answered the phone in DA’s office was unaware of Everett’s death.
“They forgot about it and we’re not gonna allow that to happen,” Dwayne said.
Dozens of others have posted in the Justice 4 Everett Facebook group about calling the office.
Dwayne said a woman in the office has been assigned to deal with the calls but many have been sent to voicemail.
The York County District Attorney’s office would not confirm or comment on how many calls they have received, how they are dealing with them or if there will be a jury appointed because they “do not comment on ongoing investigations.”
“If they would just have a conversation with our family, sit down and meet with us, like the human beings that we are … at least have the decency and the compassion to meet without family, we would go ahead and ask the people to stop calling,” said Dwayne, but until then he won’t stop until he gets justice and the only way that is possible is with activism.
“It’s the people of Queens of who have galvanized around my family,” he said its this support and activism that got them the autopsy results and it will be what gets them justice.
The Palmer family has received vocal support from local elected officials, including State Sen. Leroy Comrie and Councilmember I. Daneek Miller.
“Months of confusion and distortion of what happened to Everett has compounded the Palmer family’s grief,” Comrie said at the event Sunday. “We’re standing here today because they deserve the truth. They need justice for the life of Everett.”
Miller said Palmer’s death may reflect persistent racism.
“A Pennsylvania publication recently warned residents of a rising tide of racism in the state, and we fear that Everett Palmer, Jr. fell prey to the culture of hostility targeting Black men and women there,” Miller said. “We will shine a light on this outrage until York County District Attorney Sunday agrees to open a grand jury investigation and the whole truth of this affair becomes known.”