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'He just wanted to come home:' Family wants answers after death at York County Prison

Written by Dylan Segelbaum/The York Daily Record | Jun 25, 2018 5:13 PM
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Everett Palmer Jr., family members said, was kind, fun-loving and cared for his friends and family. On April 9, he became unresponsive while in custody at York County Prison and later died. (Photo: Submitted)

(Undated) -- Everett Palmer Jr. had an all-American childhood.

He grew up in Queens, New York, as part of a blue-collar family of lifelong civil servants. He played football, baseball, and, his favorite, basketball. Following in the footsteps of other family members, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.

But on April 9, Palmer became unresponsive while in custody at York County Prison and later died. He had been there for about two days on a DUI charge from 2016, according to court records. The York County Coroner's Office has said he became agitated and started hitting his head on the inside of the cell door, but that the cause and manner of death are pending additional testing.

He was 41.

Palmer, loved ones said, was a kind, gentle person who cared about his friends and family. They want answers and do not believe that they've received a credible explanation about why a healthy, young man died in custody.

"There's varying degrees of stories in terms of what's happened," said his older brother, Dwayne Palmer. "And now there's no story, because we can't seem to get anybody to talk to us with regards to what happened to my brother."

The investigation is ongoing, said Mark Walters, a spokesman for York County, who declined to further discuss the case. 

Palmer was one of seven siblings -- he has three brothers and three sisters. He leaves behind two sons, 8 and 12. He was most recently living with a friend in Seaford, Delaware.

Following his military service, Palmer worked with children who had special needs. He later became a personal trainer, family members said, and would travel around the United States. He had an eclectic taste in music, which spanned genres and cultures. That included classic thrash metal bands such as Exodus, Death Angel and Testament, according to his Facebook page.

He was also a "long-suffering" New York Knicks fan.

"He was very kind, considerate, gentle young man who would go out of his way to help anyone who needed help," said Rose Palmer, his mother. "He was non-violent, non-confrontational, and he's taken away from his family now for what reason? That's what we want to know."

His younger brother, Lamar Palmer, recalled how he kept him close. They were only two years apart.

"I wanted to be like him. I wanted to imitate him, just be like him," Lamar Palmer said. "He was just a very special guy." 

When Palmer was in town, everyone, from cousins to old friends, would come to see him. He had an ability to make people happy and get them to laugh, family members said. 

April Palmer, his sister, said her brother liked to eat -- "a lot."

Palmer, she said, would ask if she was cooking when he visited. He loved Italian food -- in particular, baked ziti. He even brought it up the last time they spoke.

 

Marlon Kirton, the Palmer family's attorney, said they've hired a forensic pathologist to complete an additional autopsy, but they're still waiting for the coroner's office to release several organs. The case, he said, will be determined by the medical information.

Coroner Pam Gay said it's standard for full autopsy results to take 90 days, but she understands how it can be frustrating to family members to not have answers. She said her office can't release anything until the forensic pathologist returns with findings.

"We want to make sure we leave no stone unturned and do a thorough investigation," Gay said.

Dwayne Palmer said his brother learned that he had an outstanding warrant -- he moved and hadn't been getting paperwork from the courts -- and went to Lancaster County to inquire about it.  He was arrested.

The crash happened in York County. It's unclear why he went to check on the warrant in Lancaster County.

Palmer crashed his car on Steltz Road near Fiscal Road in Codorus Township on Oct. 28, 2016. Emergency responders found his vehicle on its roof and flew him to York Hospital. He had a blood alcohol content of 0.148 percent, police said. The legal limit for driving is 0.08 percent in Pennsylvania.

Family members never heard from him in custody. Loved ones say they only got a call informing them that he'd died.

So far, Dwayne Palmer said they haven't heard from any officials in York County, other than the investigating state trooper and the coroner's office, expressing sympathy for his death. He said his brother was trying to get on the right side of the law so he could visit family. 

Said Dwayne Palmer: "He just wanted to come home."

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record

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