A Tulsa man arrested in 2015 after allegedly shooting a man in the neck was pronounced dead earlier this month at an area hospital.
But records related to the man’s death are unclear on exactly when and where he died.
Thomas Willingham III died Feb. 2, according to a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office.
His cause and manner of death are pending the results of toxicology tests that could take several weeks. Willingham, 48, began vomiting while in the Tulsa Jail on Feb. 2, according to a report filed by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office with the Oklahoma State Health Department.
State law requires those reports to be filed within 24 hours of an in-custody death. The report filed in Willingham’s case states that the jail’s medical provider, Turn Key Medical, decided to have the inmate transferred by EMSA to St. John Medical Center.
Willingham, the report states, “coded” after being placed on the gurney and was declared deceased by an emergency room doctor. The sheriff’s office has not commented on the specifics surrounding Willingham’s death, and the report filed with the state health department isn’t clear on exactly when Willingham died.
It states that he “coded” after EMSA had arrived but apparently before being placed in the ambulance.
“Once on the gurney inmate Willingham coded,” the report, filed by Major Eric Kitch, states. “EMSA and medical staff began CPR and attempted life-saving measures. He was transported by EMSA and pronounced deceased by the ER doctor at 1913 hours.”
Willingham was last arrested June 27, 2015, according to a jail booking sheet released Tuesday by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s office. He was not booked into the jail until weeks later due to pre-existing medical conditions, the Tulsa World reported at the time.
Willingham allegedly shot a man in a home in 6800 block of East King Place, an address a few blocks north of East Admiral Place and Sheridan Road. The victim’s injuries were not life-threatening, Tulsa police said at the time, though Willingham reportedly had “several” medical issues causing him to spend time in a hospital before being released and booked into the Tulsa jail.
The victim’s injuries were not life-threatening, Tulsa police said at the time, though Willingham reportedly had “several” medical issues causing him to spend time in a hospital before being released and booked into the Tulsa jail.
Willingham’s death is the first in-custody death of 2017 for the Tulsa Jail, following at least four such deaths in 2016.
- Nathan Daniel Bradshaw, 32, was found unresponsive in his cell March 12.
- Leo Dale Horn, 58, died June 11 after being found unresponsive in his segregation cell.
- Mitchell Godsey, 59, died Aug. 1.
- Caitlyn Lewis, 30, died by a “self-inflicted” manner in her cell Oct. 5, 2016.
Willingham has a lengthy arrest record stretching back more than two decades in Tulsa County.
He pleaded guilty in 2014 to drug and false personation charges, and was found guilty in 2009 of eluding and resisting police officers following an arrest for driving under the influence. His felony convictions stretch back to a 1995 second-degree burglary conviction.
A protective order against Willingham was filed in 2014 after his wife alleged he was abusive and was seeking to buy bullets for a handgun he owned but was not supposed to have possession of due to prior felony convictions. The protective order was granted, then dismissed about two months later when neither Willingham or his wife showed up to a court hearing.
Records show the couple divorced less than a year later.
Willingham’s death happened less than a month before a trial over the death of Elliot Williams is set to begin in federal court. Williams’ death in the jail is perhaps the most well-known of about the 25 in-custody deaths since 2010.
Williams, a veteran who was arrested during a mental-health episode in 2011, died from a broken neck and dehydration over five days in a medical cell. Video shows jailers tossed trays of food at his feet while medical staff didn’t treat him or take him to the hospital.
Records indicate the jail’s medical and detention staff thought Williams was “faking paralysis.”
The Tulsa Jail has been the focus of more than a dozen civil rights lawsuits filed in recent years over prisoner deaths and injuries