There’s some closure for the family of a Black man who died in 2011 on the floor of a Tulsa, Oklahoma jail cell, naked and paralyzed.
A jury on Monday said the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and its former sheriff violated the civil rights of Elliott Williams and awarded his estate $10.25 million in a federal law suit, Tulsa World reports.
Williams, a 37-year-old Army veteran, suffered in the jail for days with a broken neck. The jail staff believed he was faking his injury and taunted Williams, placing food and water out of his reach, as he lay dying.
The state Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that Williams died from “complications of vertebrospinal injuries due to blunt force trauma,” and he was dehydrated at the time of his death.
After deliberating for two days, the jurors ordered the county to pay Williams’ estate $10 million, and they ordered former sheriff Stanley Glanz personally to pay $250,000 in punitive damages.
The jury found that the county was “indifferent” to Williams’ suffering at a jail facility where problems existed for decades, stated Dan Smolen, an attorney for the Williams estate.
Smolen said he hopes this verdict is a “wakeup call.”
Williams had a mental breakdown after separating from his wife and his mother was diagnosed with cancer. Police officers pepper-sprayed and arrested Williams after he stepped toward them and said he wanted to be shot during an altercation.
Instead of conducting a mental health assessment, the sheriff’s staff placed Williams in a holding cell. The Sheriff’s Office claims Williams broke his own neck by driving his head into the holding cell door. Williams told the staff that he couldn’t move his legs. They believed he was faking his paralysis but relocated him to a medical unit.
A surveillance video shows Williams on his back for 51 hours on the cell floor. It also shows the staff putting food trays and water where he couldn’t reach them.
Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith described the video footage to jurors as “absolutely disturbing.”
After the verdict, Williams’ brother, Kevin Williams, said that he is satisfied but justice is incomplete.
“No amount of money is going to bring him back,” Kevin Williams said. “People need to be going to jail. There needs to be criminal charges filed.”
Defense attorney Guy Fortney said he is surprised and disappointed by the verdict. He’s considering an appeal.
SOURCE: Tulsa World