Elliott Williams, a black veteran, was charged with misdemeanor obstruction on Oct. 21, 2011, at a Marriott hotel where employees thought he was having a mental breakdown. Williams would suffer in a cell at the Tulsa County jail in Oklahoma for nearly six days, some of which was filmed by surveillance cameras. That footage was released in 2013 (video below).
According to the New York Daily News, a police officer was seen forcefully shoving a knee into Williams' spine during the arrest. Williams' father, Earl, noted that his 37-year-old son had to struggle to walk, and when the police hoisted him up, they allowed his feet to drag.
When Williams was taken to police headquarters to be booked, he told police that he was suicidal while "chanting, mumbling, screaming, crawling around on the floor, and brutally slamming his head into the walls," according to the newspaper, but nothing was done and Williams was taken to the jail.
"This guy went almost six days and never got taken to the hospital with a broken neck," Daniel Smolen, the Williams’ family lawyer, 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," Smolen added. "You wouldn’t do that to an animal or any living thing."
The Williams family has filed a federal lawsuit that asserts Williams was paralyzed and begged for help while lying on a concrete prison cell floor, but the staff refused to help and instead, taunted him.
According to a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office internal report, prison guards dragged Williams’ body into a shower where he was left for about an hour.
Williams "would not stand up but we did give him a shower anyway," a captain later said. Another officer recalled Williams lying face down in the shower and yelling, "Help me!"
Earl tried to contact his son, but was not allowed to see him "because of Elliott’s condition."
According to the family's lawsuit, a mental health worker told Williams' dad: "He’s acting like he’s paralyzed, but we know he’s not."
The lawsuit also claims that detention officers, a prison psychiatrist and nurses all accused Williams of "faking" and refused to give him medical care or take him to a hospital.
Correctional Healthcare Management, a private company hired by the jail to provide medical care for the inmates, settled out of court two years ago, but Tulsa County did not.
"It’s a slow, torturous death," Smolen added. “You’re cognizant of it the whole time. It’s like a nightmare."
The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office told The Daily Beast that it would not comment. However, in a court filing, attorney Corbin Brewster said: "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 added.
Brewster insisted that Williams' legal team "has not established any evidence [that] anyone at the jail ... consciously refused to provide him with medical care."