Elliott Williams, a 37 year old veteran who suffered with mental illness, was taken into custody in Tulsa County Oklahoma. He somehow suffered a broken neck while in custody and spent the last five days of his life in torment as his captors relentlessly taunted him and accused him of faking his injuries before he died.
At one point, jailers dumped Williams’s limp body into a shower and left him there for an hour. The dying inmate “would not stand up but we did give him a shower anyway,” a captain later testified, according to a sheriff’s office internal report.
Another officer saw Williams face down in the shower, screaming, “Help me!” according to the internal report.
In the days that followed, Williams’s father tried in vain to contact his son. He was denied visitation “because of Elliott’s condition.”
“He’s acting like he’s paralyzed, but we know he’s not,” a mental health worker told Williams’s dad, court papers allege.
Detention officers, nurses, and even a jail psychiatrist accused Williams of “faking” an illness. His family says they declined to administer medical care or transport Williams to a hospital—until it was too late.
Cops arrested the Army vet, who had a history of mental illness, at a Marriott hotel on Oct. 21, 2011. Hotel staff called the cops after Williams, who was with his parents, appeared to have a mental breakdown in the lobby. At the time, his only alleged crime was misdemeanor obstruction.
But he paid with his life.
“This guy went almost six days and never got taken to the hospital with a broken neck,” Daniel Smolen, an attorney for Williams’s family, told The Daily Beast. “They’re throwing food at him and making fun of him in the cell while he’s going through a horrific death. You wouldn’t do that to an animal or any living thing.”
Most of the horrors Williams endured in the jail were captured on the facility’s surveillance footage. The shocking video was released in 2013, two years after the Williams family filed a federal lawsuit against then-Sheriff Stanley Glanz.
The complaint also targeted employees of the private healthcare company contracted to operate the jail’s medical services. The firm, Correctional Healthcare Management, settled out of court two years ago, but the county didn’t. Smolen expects the Williams case to go to trial.
“It’s a slow, torturous death,” Smolen said, adding that Williams’s case is the worst civil rights violation he’s seen captured on film. “You’re cognizant of it the whole time. It’s like a nightmare.”
The Tulsa County sheriff’s office told The Daily Beast it would not comment on cases that are pending litigation and about to go to trial. But in one court filing for the Williams case, Sheriff Glanz’s attorney Corbin Brewster claimed, “Williams was surrounded by people in the jail who thought they were taking care of him.
“Despite medical staff’s incorrect diagnoses of Mr. Williams before his death, the undisputed evidence is that the medical professionals who examined and treated Mr. Williams sincerely believed he was faking paralysis,” Brewster wrote.