Nathan Daniel Bradshaw was arrested by Tulsa Police March 8 on a nearly four-month old warrant for failing to appear at a court hearing. On Sunday, the 32-year-old was found unresponsive in the Tulsa Jail and hospitalized following what jail staff termed a suicide attempt.
By Wednesday night, he was dead.
In between the suicide attempt and his death, Bradshaw — who was on life support at the Oklahoma State University Medical Center — was released from Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office custody on his own recognizance, a process referred to as “being OR’d.”
Incapacitated, he couldn’t sign the paperwork for his release himself, so his family signed for him, acting sheriff Michelle Robinette said during an interview Thursday.
Family members are often in a tough spot when severely injured or sick inmates are transported to local hospitals and then “released” from Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office custody.
Inmates’ families face a difficult decision: Sign the inmate out of official custody and take over the financial burden of costly medical bills, or risk not having access at the hospital to an inmate who might be on death’s door.
That’s a side effect of two things, Robinette said during an interview Thursday. For one, she said the sheriff’s office wants family members to be able to spend “unimpeded time” with the sick or injured inmate. If a hospitalized inmate remains in sheriff’s office custody, a deputy is posted at his door and there are rules about who and how many people can be in the room at one time.
But releasing an inmate from custody can also save the county money.
“It’s not our first thought,” Robinette said. “But it is on our mind.”
Once an inmate is released from custody, the county is no longer responsible for their medical bills, so any medical expenses fall to the inmate and/or their family.
The process plays out like this: When inmate is taken from the jail to a hospital and seen by a doctor, the doctor relays a prognosis back to jail staff, who contact a liaison to a judge. The judge then authorizes the inmate to be released from custody, and the paperwork is taken to either the inmate or their family to be signed.
“We’re still responsible for the (cost of) transport, admission, the doctor’s visit,” Robinette said. “That is still very expensive.”
The sheriff’s office has not given specifics about what led to Bradshaw’s death, only that “preliminarily” it’s being treated as a suicide attempt. The state medical examiner’s office said Thursday that no preliminary cause or manner of death would be released until Bradshaw’s toxicology screening is complete, a process that would take months.
Robinette said it appeared that Bradshaw had not mentioned suicide during his most recent incarceration, but that jail officials would continue investigating.
“We’re going to look at past incarcerations too,” she said. Bradshaw had been jailed at least five times since late 2013, records show.
Since Bradshaw was housed in a general population cell, the incident might have been caught on camera. Terry Simonson, TCSO director of governmental affairs, said Thursday that general population areas have recorded video surveillance.
Robinette said the investigation would also include looking at cell checks, to see if proper procedure was followed by detention officers tasked with inspecting each cell.
“By policy they do checks every 30 minutes,” she said. “The investigation will reveal if they did or didn’t (do the checks properly).”
Bradshaw’s death cast a sad ending on the life of a man who court records show struggled with petty crimes and drug use. He was being held on $100,000 bond before he died, a figure that would seem to indicate he had committed a dangerous crime or was a potential flight risk.
In reality, he was in jail for failing to appear to a court hearing after being released from a drug treatment program, records show.
His most recent arrest report is scarce with details, offering up just two sentences: “Subject located, warrant revealed and confirmed. Subject arrested, transported and booked.”
The warrant Bradshaw was booked for was from a 2014 felony charge for grand larceny. Bradshaw had already pleaded guilty to the charge — he was arrested for stealing textbooks from Tulsa Community College to sell on Craigslist — and been given a five-year suspended sentence.
But court records show he may have fallen back into old patterns. He was arrested again and his suspended sentence was revoked about six months later after he allegedly stole textbooks again, this time from the University of Tulsa.
Last August, Bradshaw was placed in drug court, an alternative sentencing method used to get non-violent criminals treatment rather than incarceration. Later that October, he was released from the program under standard rules and conditions, like not using drugs or alcohol, not possessing a firearm, and wearing a GPS ankle monitor.
But he did not show to his next court appearance in November, and a warrant was again issued for his arrest, one that remained active until he was jailed March 8.
Five days later, he was “released” from jail while in the hospital. His order of release was authorized by Presiding Tulsa County Judge Rebecca Nightingale and his court file was updated to show that his case would have follow-up hearings March 21 and April 1.
Nightingale’s authorization was signed on a post-it note attached to the release order stating that Bradshaw was in the intensive care unit at OSU Medical Center.
Robinette gave a report to the Criminal Justice Authority last October listing a total of 10 deaths in the Tulsa Jail between 2013 and Oct. 23, 2015. The last jail death, a man named Danny Watters, was ruled by the medical examiner to be of natural causes.
Of those 10 deaths, five occurred in the jail and five at a hospital, according to the report.
Bradshaw is the first jail death in 2016.
Rebekah Rigsbee, who said she had been friends with Bradshaw for years, called him “a great son, brother, and friend.”
“I can’t believe he’s gone without a trace,” she said.
She first heard of his death Wednesday night. “He always knew what to say to make you smile, he always brought the best out in people, and he always supported me no matter what.
“He had problems like everyone. He battled addiction for years, but he faced (his problems) head on and never gave up. I’ll never forget him, he’ll always have a special spot in my heart.”
Funeral services for Bradshaw are set for Saturday at Rice Funeral Service.