Coroner: Ex-NFL player Lawrence Phillips’ cellmate died of strangulation

Phillips accused
Lawrence Phillips played for the Rams after attending the University of Nebraska.
(James A. Finley / Associated Press)

A man who authorities say was killed by his cellmate, former NFL running back Lawrence Phillips, died of strangulation.

Damion Soward, 37, was found unresponsive in his cell Sunday and was taken to Delano Regional Medical Center where he later died, according to the Kern County coroner’s office.

Coroner’s officials determined this week that Soward died of neck compression asphyxia. They ruled his death a homicide.

Soward, a reputed gang member from the Inland Empire, was serving an 82-year-to-life sentence in the execution murder of Michael Fairley, a rival gang member known by the moniker “Trouble.”


Soward shared a cell with Phillips at Kern Valley State Prison, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Phillips is accused of killing Soward and is being held in a segregation unit at the prison.

Phillips, who played with the St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers, is serving 31 years for domestic violence, false imprisonment and vehicle theft.

The Los Angeles native has faced a string of legal cases.


In 1995, he pleaded no contest to charges of trespassing and misdemeanor assault for beating his college girlfriend after he allegedly found her in bed with the quarterback at the University of Nebraska.

Two years later, Phillips ran into trouble again.

While playing for the Miami Dolphins, he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery for allegedly hitting a woman who refused to dance with him at a Florida nightclub.

More assault charges followed soon after.

Phillips was accused of punching and choking his girlfriend in San Diego in 2005.

A week later, he showed up outside the Los Angeles Coliseum and ran over three teens he thought had stolen his belongings. He was ultimately convicted of domestic violence, false imprisonment and vehicle theft.

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