Autopsy: Caddo County inmate died after jailers strangled him

The autopsy states Robinson had a broken neck, several hemorrhages and abrasions from his handcuffs.

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An inmate who died in the Caddo County jail in April was strangled after he was put in a neck hold by jailers, records show.

Just a few days after he was arrested, Darius Randell Robinson, 41, died April 5 after jailers at the Caddo County Detention Center said he tried to escape his cell.

The jail is located in Anadarko, a town with a population of less than 7,000 people that sits about an hour southwest of Oklahoma City.

Robinson had been transferred to Caddo County after he was arrested in Oklahoma County on warrants for unpaid child support.

Initially, jail authorities told News9 that Robinson tried to escape the cell while they were clearing items he had destroyed.

His autopsy report from the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s office states that Robinson reportedly began “acting violently and agitated in his cell.”

Darius Randell Robinson. Courtesy.
Darius Randell Robinson. Courtesy.

According to the autopsy: “When the jail staff opened his cell door to check on him, the decedent reportedly charged the staff. He was subdued, handcuffed, and pepper spray was reportedly used. In addition, it was reported that a neck hold was also used to restrain the deceased. While lying handcuffed and prone on the jail floor, the deceased became unresponsive. There was a report of white foam coming from his mouth.”

The autopsy states Robinson had a broken neck, several hemorrhages and abrasions from his handcuffs. His probable cause of death is listed as asphyxiation due to “manual compression of neck.”

In a statement Wednesday, attorneys for Robinson’s family said: “Tragically, the autopsy confirms what the family suspected; Darius Robinson died as the result of excessive force. Specifically, the medical examiner concluded that Darius died from injuries consistent with manual strangulation. Darius’ injuries were directly caused by jailers at the Caddo County Jail.

“This conduct is outrageous, and inconsistent with jail standards throughout the United States. We trust that the District Attorney will follow the law and file the appropriate criminal charges immediately against those jailers responsible for the strangulation and homicide of Darius Robinson.”

Robinson was declared dead at a local emergency room, and while the autopsy states he reportedly had a history of “unknown pill abuse,” there were no drugs in his system, according to a toxicology report.

Family members who spoke to The Frontier said Robinson did not use drugs, and that the warrants he was arrested on are for unpaid child support cases dating back to the late 90s, for children who are now 18 and 19 years old. Robinson’s sister told The Frontier that those children lived with him at the time he was arrested in Oklahoma City.

Robinson’s family told The Frontier that jail staff weren’t forthcoming when they notified them Robinson had died; jailers told family members it was a heart attack and did not mention he was pepper sprayed and put in a neck hold while handcuffed.

In a heavily redacted Jail Inspection Report submitted by Caddo County to the Oklahoma State Department of Health on April 5, detention officers said Robinson was incoherent before being restrained and pepper sprayed.

“Master control advised detention floor staff that inmate (blank) which at that time was secured in (blank) a holding cell in booking that he was tearing up his cell and eating paper,” the handwritten report states. “Shift supervisor (blank) and detention officer (blank) entered (blank) to check on inmate (blank.) Inmate (blank) began talking but making no sense and tried to get passed both detention officers, that’s when he was taken to the ground at that point inmate (blank) began to (blank) then (blank) (blank) was (blank) along with (blank) being cal (sic.) Inmate (blank) was (blank) at (blank) hours.

The signature of the reporting deputy is also redacted.

Jails are required to report deaths, serious injuries, suicides and suicide attempts to the state jail inspector’s office at the state Health Department. The Frontier has objected to the health department’s heavy redaction of these documents in several recent cases, because such redactions violate the letter and the spirit of the Open Records Act.

A spokesman for the Health Department said the redactions are needed to comply with HIPAA, though the federal law dealing with medical record privacy does not apply to law enforcement agencies. The spokesman said the Health Department’s legal staff is reviewing its redaction of jail incident reports.

The report to the state health department doesn’t say whether Robinson was handcuffed before or after jailers used a neck hold to subdue him.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 6.09.12 PM
Darius Robinson. News9

Robinson had been arrested multiple times over the years, primarily for drug possession and distribution. His family told news outlets in April that while he’d had brushes with the law, Robinson was a beloved father of eight.

They’ve demanded the release of video from inside the jail, and the OSBI is reportedly investigating Robinson’s death.

Attorneys for Robinson’s family say they will pursue an independent investigation and plan to hold a news conference soon.

A woman who answered the phone at the Caddo County Sheriff’s Office late Wednesday refused to comment on Robinson’s death.

The woman, who would only identify herself as Officer Brandes, also said she would not release a mug shot of Robinson, adding: “We don’t release those.”

A 2012 attorney general opinion states that law enforcement booking mugshots are public records and must be released upon request.

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Cary Aspinwall

Creative Director / Staff Writer

During more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, Cary has written about everything from reality TV stars to inmates on death row. She's twice been named Great Plains Writer of the Year and was recently honored as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting. Contact: cary@readfrontier.com or 918-928-5835.
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