Conflicting stories about death of Pascagoula fist fight suspect - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Conflicting stories about death of Pascagoula fist fight suspect

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) -

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - A McHenry woman claims "police negligence" contributed to the death of a man arrested for starting a fist fight at a Pascagoula Waffle House Tuesday morning.

Thirty-four year old Brian Connely Jr., while in handcuffs, collapsed on the sidewalk and hit his head on the concrete. He was pronounced dead a short time later at Singing River Hospital.

An eyewitness said the arresting officers ignored the man's medical distress, with one officer telling her, "He's faking it."

There are two conflicting stories of what happened. Eyewitness Rhodes said she was "appalled" by the lack of response and concern from police officers.

Pascagoula's police chief, Kenny Johnson, said the facts show that his officers called for medical help "almost immediately" after the man collapsed.

"To me that man died a disgraceful death, and he did not deserve that," said Rhodes, who said she has no regrets about coming forward and "doing the right thing."

Rhodes and her fiance witnessed the fist fight at the Waffle House in Pascagoula Tuesday morning.

She said after the fight was broken up, Brian Connely Jr. and his 16-year-old son were placed in handcuffs outside, without incident. But a short time later, things changed.

"Almost right after the handcuffs got put on, the father just falls. He falls, and he hits the concrete, just wham, as hard as he could," she explained.

She said Connely was left lying in the pouring rain, in distress.

"This man. The water is coming down and his mouth is wide open and the water is coming down into his mouth and you can see him trying to spit the water up. And there's water being spit up. But he's having a hard time breathing. There's not as much water being spit up as going down," she said.

Rhodes says she was appalled by the lack of concern from the officers.

"At no time had I ever seen them call on the radio and ask for an ambulance help or someone to proceed with medical attention, at no time. The only thing I heard out of this officer's mouth is, 'I've got 19 years experience. I know what I'm doing, and this man is just faking it'," she said.

"This was a fight inside the Waffle House, yes sir. We received probably four or five 9-1-1 calls from customers inside the Waffle House," said police chief, Kenny Johnson.

Pascagoula's police chief said not only did his responding officers act properly, they did indeed call for medical help when the man collapsed.

"We've checked the 9-1-1 logs and radio logs. Within about two minutes of the officers arriving at the Waffle House, they were already calling for medical personnel. They called Rescue 14 and Acadian Ambulance. And less than five minutes from then, medical personnel are on the scene and rendering treatment," said the chief.

The DA said a grand jury will determine the facts.

"Anytime you have an "in custody" death, I think the citizens need to hear it. And the citizens need to have the facts, and they need to decide. That's what the grand jury is; it's made up of Jackson County residents. This individual had not been in custody for long, but technically he was in custody at the time in a very visible area of town," said District Attorney, Tony Lawrence.

An autopsy is pending and should give investigators the cause of death.

Brian Connely Jr. of Moss Point leaves behind a wife and three children.

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