via NY Daily News:
Elliott Earl Williams, a 37-year-old veteran who was critically injured and mentally ill, should’ve never been taken to an Oklahoma jail on Oct. 21, 2011.
In fact, every local jail in America is woefully unprepared to handle men, women or children with severe mental illnesses or critical injuries. In instance after instance when those who are battling hardships are taken to jails instead of hospitals, criminal abuse, negligence and death are too often the result. Guards, who often lack college educations but who can slam doors shut with the best of them, are a bad excuse for doctors, nurses or mental health counselors.
But we already knew this. Here we are, though — stuck in an endless cycle in which African Americans like Natasha McKenna, Jamaycheal Mitchell, Sandra Bland, Gynnya McMillen and Elliott Williams were taken to local jails alive and came out in body bags because of the inhumane indifference to their well-being.
When we say “Black Lives Matter,” we utter the phrase because so many of their names and stories speak volumes about a system that often claims otherwise.
After a painful day in which Williams was witnessed mumbling to himself, tearing up grass and dirt with his hands, talking out loud to God and randomly throwing food, it was obvious that he was having a mental health crisis. He told police he was suicidal when they arrived. They arrested him and took him to jail anyway.
During the arrest, police were witnessed forcefully putting their knee into his spine. Elliott’s father, Earl, said that his son appeared to struggle to walk when they lifted him up and instead let his feet drag. That too, has been seen before.
After Williams arrived first arrived at police headquarters, before he was taken to jail, he again told police he was suicidal. This alone should’ve triggered a different course of action for him. It didn’t. Williams continued his manic behaviors — chanting, mumbling, screaming, crawling around on the floor, and brutally slamming his head into the walls.
A child could’ve diagnosed him as mentally ill at that point. Police didn’t. They proceeded, instead, to book him and take him to the Tulsa County Jail — where he would endure five horrendous days of suffering witnessed by dozens of officers, guards, staff members, and nurses.
On any one of those days, a reasonable person with something resembling a conscience, would’ve taken Williams to the hospital.
That’s not how they roll in Tulsa, though.
“When Williams arrived to the county jail’s booking area in the early morning of Oct. 22, Owasso officer Jack Wells slammed him to the floor while trying to handcuff him, according to the cop’s own interview with OSBI. Officer Wells told OSBI he “landed on top of Williams’ shoulder and head,” but that the prisoner ‘appeared to be fine with no injuries.’
“Still, the Tulsa sheriff office’s appeared to disagree. In an internal report, the sheriff’s department says Williams struggled after the fall, and that his condition was captured on booking cameras. ‘At this time it is obvious that Williams is having a difficult time standing,’ the document stated.”
What happened to Williams between that moment on Oct. 22 and the moment he died five days later is criminal. For days on end, Williams complained to anyone and everyone who would listen that he was critically injured and could no longer move his legs or anything at all below his neck.
He urinated and defecated on himself. He writhed in pain and begged every guard and nurse there to take him seriously.
They wrapped him garbage bags and dumped him in the shower, where he still did not move, face down in the shower.
That was the first day. Morning, noon and night this continued. Nurses and staff put water just beyond his reach to see if he would move to get it.
They still claimed he was faking it.
On Oct. 23, Williams never moved.
On Oct. 24, Williams never moved.
On Oct. 25, Williams never moved.
On Oct. 26, Williams never moved.
On Oct. 27, Williams never moved.
In fact, he never moved again, but appeared to have seizures.
They claimed he faked them. He screamed for help, begging the staff to “cut it out of him,” and had arm movements that suggested a critical brain injury.
Finally, on Oct. 27, officials dragged Williams’ limp body to a holding cell with a camera in it.
That is the footage we have included here. Just watch his feet. For hours on end, they don’t move even an inch. Of course they don’t. He’s paralyzed.
While there on the floor for hours, staff throw water at him, look at him, and continue to ignore the fact that they have a paralyzed man on the floor of their jail.
Finally, at 11:06 a.m., as you will see in the video, Williams dies. Then, he gets critical medical attention as they try to pump his heart back to health.
It’s too late.
Every single person involved with this man’s death should go to jail. This was a full five years ago.
While it made local news back then — and again when the videos were released in 2013 — this case has never had the pressure of national scrutiny. In the years since, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and the county jail have been widely criticized for dangerous, unethical and illegal practices.
Nothing we can do will bring Williams back to life, but we can still hold people accountable.
We can still change the way these systems work. We can do better. We must do better.
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— The Reporters (@TheReporters) November 8, 2012