Jail and medical staff’s treatment of Elliott Williams was “disturbing,” a former detention officer testified Thursday.
Tammy Hanley claimed she begged her supervisors to send Williams to a hospital. Hanley is one of two detention officers fired following Williams’ death.
She has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office, saying she was accused of falsifying logbooks but “adamantly disputes” that allegation.
Jail logs indicate Hanley recorded she fed Williams at 10:50 the morning he died. However, Williams was already dead at that time.
The testimony came Thursday on the 12th day of a civil trial in federal court over Williams’ 2011 death. Two other witnesses testified to the treatment he received in Tulsa’s jail and Williams’ brother spoke about Williams’ character.
Hanley worked as a detention officer in the jail’s medical unit when Williams died.
Former Sheriff Stanley Glanz and current Sheriff Vic Regalado are the defendants in the lawsuit alleging Williams’ Eighth and 14th Amendment rights were violated. Jail staff left him to languish on his jail cell floor without eating or drinking for days before dying from complications of a broken neck. The jail’s former medical provider, CHC, settled with Williams’ estate and is no longer a defendant.
The jail’s former medical provider, Correctional Healthcare Companies Inc., settled with Williams’ estate and is no longer a defendant.
Williams begged for help and repeatedly told jail staff he couldn’t move and that his neck was broken.
However, detention and medical staff concluded that Williams was faking paralysis, although testimony and records indicate they did no medical tests to confirm their assumption. Williams was placed in a cell equipped with
Williams was placed in a cell equipped with video for 51 hours and never moved his feet on his own. He lacked motor control in his arms to grasp the trays of food jailers tossed into his cell and spilled the single cup of water he was given.
When Williams arrived in the medical unit, he was screaming out for help and saying something was in his stomach, Hanley said. He was covered in urine and feces and had blood near his crotch area, she said.
As Williams was asking for help, Hanley told Capt. Tommy Fike that Williams should be sent to a hospital, she testified. Fike, Hanley said, responded by telling her Williams was “mental health.”
When she alerted a nurse of Williams’ condition, the nurse responded Williams was “faking” and wanted attention, Hanley said.
Concerned about the nurse’s response, Hanley said she called Sgt. Gary Kaiser. Kaiser, along with another unnamed jail employee, checked on Williams through a slot in his cell door, but then turned around and walked away, she testified.
Staff’s treatment of Williams “disturbed” her because no body helped him, Hanley testified.
“They treated him worse than they’d treat an animal,” she said.
Billy McKelvey, a former Sheriff’s Office captain, investigated Williams’ death and completed a thorough internal report with his findings.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Guy Fortney asked Hanley why she didn’t mention the nurse’s and Fike’s actions to McKelvey. Hanley claimed McKelvey didn’t want to hear about what happened to Williams.
She disputed some of the answers attributed to her in McKelvey’s report, saying she never made certain statements.
Hanley was tasked with monitoring Williams and recording the checks while he was in the medical unit. Asked in cross-examination why she didn’t alert nurses after the checks just before Williams was discovered unresponsive in his cell, Hanley said he was alive at the time.
Asked why she didn’t make any written complaints about Williams’ treatment, Hanley said she made verbal complaints to Fike and Kaiser.
In a November 2011 investigation by Detective Eric Kitch, Hanley said she asked Fike whether Williams should be taken to the hospital. She also noted several concerns she had with Williams’ treatment in the interview with Kitch.
During cross-examination, Hanley told Fortney she didn’t see Fike give Williams water. However, she told Kitch in the interview that Fike did.
In several instances Thursday, Hanley denied making statements recorded in Kitch’s investigation.
Fortney asked if she changed her mind about her testimony because of her lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office, and Hanley said no.
‘I’ve never seen a man in that position’
Derrick Latham, an inmate who was incarcerated at the same time as Williams, was the second witness to testify Thursday.
Latham worked as a trustee (an inmate worker) in the jail’s medical unit at the time.
Shortly after Williams entered the jail’s custody, a medical emergency was called because he defecated on himself while in a holding cell. Latham’s job was to bring gurneys to cells where emergencies were called.
Latham said when he arrived at the holding cell, detention officers were surrounding Williams, screaming at him to get up and saying that nothing was wrong with him.
Williams, Latham said, was complaining his neck was injured and he couldn’t move.
Exactly how Williams broke his neck is unclear. An Owasso police officer slammed Williams to the floor by his head and neck in the jail’s booking area.
Another inmate said he believed Williams rammed his head into his cell door. However, Williams’ attorney Dan Smolen has questioned why that claim did not surface until two months after Williams’ death, Oct. 27, 2011. No other witnesses reported seeing Williams ram his head into the door.
Officers were yelling at Williams and using “real vulgar language,” Latham testified. Jail staff put a trash bag underneath Williams, picked him up by his arms and legs and placed him on a gurney.
Before going to the medical unit, Fike and Sgt. Doug Hinshaw brought Williams to a shower to clean the feces off of him. When they arrived, staff told him to “get the hell off the gurney,” tilted the gurney up and shook it until Williams fell off, Latham said.
“It seemed like he was in extreme pain,” he said. Latham also recalled Williams “begging for medical attention,” but jail staff were not responding.
Smolen, who is representing Williams’ estate, asked Latham whether anyone seemed angry that Williams defecated on himself.
“Yes,” Latham replied. “The way they threw him off the gurney. They kinda just lifted him off and dropped him off.”
No one attempted to support Williams’ head as he was put into the shower, Latham said.
A hand-written jail logbook indicated Fike and Hinshaw left Williams in the shower for just under two hours. Latham said he worked in the medical unit for a couple of more hours after Williams was brought in, but he was still in the shower when he left.
After being placed in the shower, Williams was calling out “I need some help,” Latham said.
When asked whether Williams’ treatment by staff was consistent with how staff treated other inmates, Latham said yes.
When Williams was put into a cell after the shower, Latham observed him lying on his back with his hands near his chest, shaking. He was offered food but was unresponsive.
“I’ve never seen a man in that position,” he said. Latham said he never saw Williams move.
Asked during cross-examination whether a nurse took Williams’ vitals, Latham said yes. When Latham left his shift, jail and medical staff still believed Williams was faking paralysis, he said.
Latham, who is now in Oklahoma Department of Corrections custody for possession of a firearm, told the court he didn’t want to testify in the trial.
“I don’t want to participate in this,” he said. “I don’t want no trouble with (Tulsa police), Tulsa County, law enforcement, period.”
Hinshaw, who also testified Thursday, gave testimony that painted a different picture of how Williams was treated.
When officers arrived to the holding cell after the medical emergency was called, Williams was asking for help and saying he couldn’t move, Hinshaw said. They helped him to his feet and onto the gurney, he said.
Because Williams had defecated on himself, medical staff asked the officers to clean Williams.
Jail staff picked Williams up by his feet and torso and placed him into the shower. They turned on warm water and began tearing off his clothes, Hinshaw testified. Officers weren’t angry at Williams because inmates would commonly defecate on themselves, he said.
Hinshaw acknowledged no one was supporting Williams’ head at that time. However, he denied that officers dumped him into the shower. Fike raised the gurney slightly, but Williams wasn’t dropped onto the floor, he said.
Hinshaw and Fike then left to respond to another medical emergency. About 35 minutes later, they returned to flip Williams over, Hinshaw said. Another emergency was then called, and the officers were gone for roughly another 45 minutes before they removed Williams from the shower, he said.
Hinshaw said Williams never screamed for help. He did, however, moan occasionally, he said.
Asked whether anyone made physical contact with Williams to try to clean him off, Hinshaw said no.
After the shower, Williams was still asking for help, Hinshaw testified. Williams’ arm was a “reddish-purple.” Hinshaw said he noted Williams’ condition to nurses.
When asked why he didn’t call 911, Hinshaw said it wasn’t procedure for detention officers to do that and he entrusted medical staff with Williams’ care.
During cross-examination, Fortney pointed to the jail’s policy regarding inmates who appear to need medical care. In situations where staff is concerned about an inmate’s medical or mental health, TCSO policy requires them to notify medical staff.
Greg Denney, an attorney representing Williams’ estate, asked what Hinshaw could have done differently to prevent Williams’ death.
“Honestly, I don’t know, sir,” he said. Fike said he gave Williams a drink, and Hinshaw said he propped Williams’ head up onto a pillow attached to the suicide blanket Williams was on.
Williams responded, “Thank you. That feels better,” and that’s the last time Hinshaw saw him, he said.
‘It was hard to meet Elliott and not like him’
A black-and-white photo of Elliott Williams stood before jurors Thursday as his older brother described him to the court.
The photo of Kevin Williams’ younger brother was taken just months before Elliott Williams’ October 2011 death in Tulsa’s jail. The older brother’s voice broke as he described Elliott Williams’ life plans and how he loved his family.
“Elliott was very family-oriented,” he said. “Elliott loved his family. … Elliott loved his mother.”
The brief, but emotional, testimony came Thursday morning.
When Tom Mortensen, an attorney representing Elliott Williams’ estate, asked Kevin Williams to use one word to describe his younger brother, he said “blessed.”
“It was hard to meet Elliott and not like him,” he said.
Elliott Williams was devoted to working in his parents’ ministry, his older brother testified. The siblings were close and saw each other at church three times each week.
Elliott Williams started having mental health problems when issues arose with his wife, when he found out his mother was diagnosed with cancer and after having fallouts with his father, Kevin Williams said. Additionally, his younger brother wasn’t sleeping, which “caused him to not become Elliott at times.”
When he learned his mother had cancer, Elliott Williams rushed his plan to work full time in the ministry to help his parents, his brother testified.
Kevin Williams, 46, didn’t know his brother was in jail “until he was gone,” he said. He believed he was at the Tulsa Center for Behavioral Health, a mental-health facility.
Elliott Williams was arrested by Owasso police Oct. 21, 2011, on a municipal complaint after he began acting erratically at a hotel and would not follow an officer’s orders.
“I got a call from my mother asking to please come to the house,” Kevin Williams said. “I just got off work. I could tell something was wrong.”
When his dad got on the phone he told him “Elliott is no longer with us.”