Police Investigate Death of Navy Veteran who said Leaders Punished Him For Lost ID, Treated Him Like Criminal

Man Who Died in Police Custody Had Served at Norfolk Naval Station

Derrick Hemphill Jr, 20, was recently kicked out of the Navy, cops say he was reported as suicidal

by Kate Wiltrout, Patrick Wilson
The Virginian-Pilot, April 5, 2012

Police have identified a man who died Tuesday as he was being driven to a hospital in a patrol car.

Derrick Shurron Hemphill Jr., 20, was reported as being disoriented and suicidal in the 7800 block of Diven Arch near Norfolk Naval Station at about 5 p.m., police spokesman Chris Amos said.

Derrick Hemphill Jr, Navy veteran died in police custody after being pepper sprayed and restrained April 3, 2012

He was violent toward officers and paramedics and was pepper-sprayed and restrained with handcuffs and leg restraints, police said. He was placed in a patrol car and died after losing consciousness, police said. 

According to records from Navy Personnel Command, Hemphill most recently served as an aviation electronics technician with the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28 at Norfolk Naval Station. Hemphill, from Brevard, N.C., enlisted in early 2010 and had been stationed in Norfolk since October 2010. He was given a general discharge under honorable conditions last month and left the service with the rank of airman apprentice, said Katie Suich, a spokeswoman for command.

Hemphill’s mother, Julia Robinson of North Carolina, said she spoke to him regularly and although he was stressed about his job and complained of unfair treatment, he did not tell her that he had been discharged.

He graduated from high school in his town, about 30 miles south of the mountain resort of Asheville, and then joined the Navy.

“My son is strong, and he’s a good-hearted person,” Robinson said.
She and other family members said they were shocked when they learned Hemphill was dead and want to know what happened.

They said he called his grandmother at 3:48 p.m. Tuesday – the day he died – and asked if family members were OK. He told his grandmother: “I love you and I want you to remember me. I just want you to remember me every day,” Robinson said.

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