Finally, Justice For Black Vet Who Died Of A Broken Neck In Tulsa Jail

In a Tulsa jail, a paralyzed Elliott Williams lay on the cell floor, covered in feces and urine, begging for help. Food and water was brought to his cell but put beyond his reach.

Justice prevailed, at last, for the family of an African-American Army veteran who died after languishing in on the floor of a cell with a broken neck for over five days — without food or water.

A federal jury awarded $10.2 million to the family of Elliott Williams whose final moments in October 2011 were captured on surveillance footage.

The video, which sparked massive outrage, showed an incapacitated Williams lying cold and naked on his back trying to reach out for food and water that jail staff reportedly dropped out of his reach on purpose.

Williams, who had no criminal record, was arrested during a mental breakdown in an Owasso, Oklahoma, hotel room after his wife left him. He was arrested on a misdemeanor obstruction in October 2011 and died in the same month before formal charges were filed.

On Oct. 22, 2011, Derrick Latham, an inmate who was incarcerated at the same time as Williams, was told to take a gurney to Williams’ cell where the deceased had spent nearly 10 hours lying on the floor and complaining of a neck injury.

“Williams was yelling that something was in his stomach and told detention officers he couldn’t move. Latham alleged that jail staff, including Sgt. Doug Hinshaw and Capt. Tommy Fike, hurled expletives at Williams and commented that they couldn’t believe he had defecated on himself,” Latham told jurors, according to Tulsa World.

Jail staff believed Williams was “faking” paralysis and they used surveillance cameras to see if he was lying or not, according to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.

Attorneys for Williams’ estate asked jurors for $51 million in compensatory damages, equal to $1 million for every hour Williams was “left suffering in his cell.”


Williams’s older brother, Kevin, reportedly broke into tears after the verdict was read. He told reporters he was “satisfied” with the decision but said someone from the jail staff should’ve been prosecuted for the vet’s death.

“Somebody should have been charged. I’m not satisfied fully but I’m content with the decision,” Kevin said.

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Jason Redmond

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