Family of man who died in Tulsa’s jail wants transparency from Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office

A TCSO spokeswoman said at this point, the Sheriff’s Office has no reason to believe Caleb Lee’s death was criminal in nature, and the Medical Examiner’s Office has not notified them that a criminal investigation is warranted.

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Caleb Lee when he was 24-years old. Courtesy.

The family of a man who died after a “medical emergency” in the Tulsa Jail last month is seeking answers and asking jail officials for transparency on the incident.

Caleb Lee, 25, was pronounced dead Sept. 24 at a Tulsa hospital and was dead by the time he arrived by ambulance, medical reports show.

The Broken Arrow family is asking Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office officials for information surrounding Lee’s death, as well as to be allowed to watch jail surveillance footage from that time. Medical records show Lee had gastrointestinal bleeding before he went into cardiac arrest.

However, TCSO officials told The Frontier they won’t release additional information until they have completed their investigation into the incident, which could take months. Even after that, the family might never be allowed to see the footage taken from inside the jail.

“Now, yeah, the video — we would love to see a video. … I’m not accusing anybody of anything,” said David Lee, Caleb’s father.

“I would just like some transparency from the Tulsa County jail to help us understand what happened so we can get some closure and move on, you know. And if nothing happened, they should be more than willing to let us view the video, I would think.”

David Lee, 52, wants the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office to release more information about what happened to his son at the jail. So far, he has few answers. KASSIE MCCLUNG/The Frontier

Caleb Lee was being held without bound on a first-degree murder charge in connection with a shooting outside a Broken Arrow Walmart on Sept. 6. Broken Arrow police officials said he shot Dylan Todd Parker, 27, after the two met for a drug exchange.

Lee was booked into David L. Moss on Sept. 8.

Caleb Lee.

Detention officers entered Lee’s cell after a medical emergency was called on Sept. 24, and found him lying on the floor, according to a jail incident report. Medical staff decided to move Caleb Lee to the jail’s medical unit to evaluate his condition.

The report states as Lee was being taken out of his cell he became “a little resistant” and refused to get onto the nurse’s cart.

“Officers came around to assist at which time when officers placed their hands on his arms, he started to slump to the floor,” the report states. “Officers were able to assist him to the floor without any use of force.”

When Caleb Lee arrived at the medical floor, he began to convulse and foam at the mouth, the incident report states.

An ambulance was called to take him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to the report. The report lists the incident as a “serious injury to prisoner.”

The jail’s incident report does not say why a medical emergency was called that morning.

TCSO spokeswoman Casey Roebuck declined to answer questions from The Frontier related to the medical emergency, citing a pending investigation into the incident.

Roebuck also denied a request of video taken of Caleb Lee during his time in the jail, claiming jail video is exempt from Oklahoma’s Open Record Act.

The Frontier sued Sheriff Vic Regalado and the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority last year after a request to view jail surveillance video was denied. That case is pending.

Records from OSU Medical Center state Caleb Lee had gastrointestinal bleeding and went into cardiac arrest before he died. An ambulance reportedly responded to David L. Moss on a call of of Caleb Lee fainting.

Caleb Lee’s OSU Medical Center records.

David Lee said he wants to know what led up to his son’s death. Requests to TCSO for information about the incident have so far gone unanswered, he said.

Caleb Lee’s family had believed he died of conditions caused by opioid withdrawals until last week when they received copies of his medical records. Reports of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage raised new questions about his death.

He had a history of struggling with substance use disorders and had been in and out of treatment centers since he was 15.

If, from reading the medical report, did Caleb have an altercation with another inmate or with staff, or what?” David Lee said. “I’m not a doctor, but I don’t think a 25-year old, even if he fell, could cause massive bleeding — a hemorrhage internally — like that.”

Roebuck said once the Sheriff’s Office finishes its investigation into Caleb Lee’s death, his family can call officials to gather additional information. The office is waiting for the Medical Examiner’s report to finish the investigation.

However, whether the family will ultimately be allowed to view video is “to be determined at a later time,” Roebuck said.

Roebuck said at this point, the Sheriff’s Office has no reason to believe Caleb Lee’s death was criminal in nature, and the Medical Examiner’s Office has not notified them that a criminal investigation is warranted.

David Lee said his son had no criminal record prior to his arrest connect to the fatal shooting of Parker. He said he believes Caleb Lee was acting in self defense when he allegedly shot Parker and was hoping to clear his name during criminal proceedings.

David Lee said his family would like to get closure on his son’s death. Caleb Lee and his girlfriend had a baby three days before he was arrested. David Lee said he and his wife now have custody of the baby.

“We want to move forward. We need to for the baby’s sake,” David Lee said. “We need to get on and move on with our life, and I think really the only way that’s going to happen is if we can get some answers, and Tulsa County is the one that has all the answers.

“And we’re not, we have not been contacted by anyone from Tulsa County sheriff’s department, or the DA’s office, since we were told he passed away.”

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Kassie McClung

Staff writer

Contact: Kassie@readfrontier.com or 918-935-1044.
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