A former Tulsa Jail inmate who was hospitalized earlier this month with a broken neck, back, and pelvis, told jail staff he was OK twice and refused to talk to a nurse before he was taken to the hospital, a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office investigator said Thursday.
David Fulps was jailed in April and later charged with two jailhouse assaults on detention officers — charges that were dropped after his hospitalization — prior to May 2 when he was found by jailers laying on his back in his cell, Det. Sgt. Virgil Collett said during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Collett was tasked by Sheriff Vic Regalado with investigating the incident.
Collett said Fulps was seen at 1:30 p.m. May 2 banging his head on the glass window inside his cell, as well as “jumping on his desk and stomping on his seat and his desk that is affixed to the wall of his cell, trying to break it free from the wall.”
Fulps, Collett said, was taken without issue to a different cell that was designed to make it harder to damage. (Fulps was alone in both cells, Collett said later.) Fulps “continued to jump from the desk to his seat to the steel bunk … and was bouncing up and down on it,” Collett said.
“At one point in time he said he was Superman and the cell could not hold him,” Collett said.
Following the 5 p.m. shift change, a detention officer checking cells (detention officers are tasked with checking cells every 30 minutes, Regalado said,) heard a “loud bang,” and found Fulps on his back inside his cell.
Collett said Fulps would not talk to the first detention officer, but when another detention officer asked if he was OK, Fulps replied that he was. Thirty minutes later, during another check, Fulps — still on the ground — again reiterated that he was OK, Collett said. It wasn’t until the ensuring check, with Fulps still on his back, that jailers called for a nurse. Collett later said blood could be seen pooling on the ground at that point, and jailers believed it was coming from an arm injury.
Fulps would not talk to the nurse, Collett said, and it was unclear from the press conference if the nurse entered the cell to see the inmate. Collett said that since Fulps had allegedly assaulted two jailers in the past, the nurse “exercised an abundance of caution.”
Shortly later, a Captain entered the cell, ordering Fulps to be taken to the medical unit. Regalado said he wasn’t sure if the jail doctor was on the grounds at that time, but the call was quickly made to take Fulps to the hospital.
Despite the fact that Fulps was taken from his cell to the medical area in a wheelchair, Regalado said he believed the inmate was taken from the jail to the hospital in a patrol car, rather than an ambulance. Regalado said jail staff sometimes has inmates taken to the hospital in a patrol vehicle in order not to “tie up” EMSA, but will call for an ambulance if necessary.
Doctors who treated Fulps at the hospital later told sheriff’s office administrators that Fulps’ injuries would not have allowed him to stand or walk, indicating the injuries came after Fulps had been transferred between cells, Regalado said.
Collett said Fulps had assaulted jail staff on two previous occasions: April 9 and April 29. During the April 29 incident, Collett said, Fulps fell down the stairs while fighting with jailers.
While being escorted back to his segregation cell from the shower at 3:50 a.m that day, Fulps “began to fight (Detention Officer) Durant by pushing him up against the wall using his left shoulder,” an incident report states.
Fulps’ cell is at the top of a staircase in the jail, according to the report.
“Detention Officer Durant stated that he struggled with Fulps to get him under control and stop the assault while also keeping him from falling down the stairs. However during their struggle Fulps lost his footing and fell down the stairs backwards while still handcuffed.”
Collett said Thursday Fulps was taken to St. John Medical Center that day, checked out by medical personnel, and returned to the jail.
Fulps’ charges were dismissed May 11, nine days after the final incident, because of his hospitalization, Regalado said. He said that depending on how Fulps responded to hospital treatment, the charges may be reinstated later.
“We will certainly look at getting out of custody affidavits for those charges,” Regalado said.
The sheriff’s office has routinely dropped charges against severely injured inmates in the past. By dropping the charges, the sheriff’s office avoids having to provide a deputy for around the clock guard duty at the hospital, as well as paying for the inmate’s medical care.
“Due to his injuries he’s certainly not a threat to the public at this point in time,” Regalado said.
“I mean this was his doing, so we’re certainly not going to pay for that.”
The sheriff’s office has so far declined to release video of the incident, though Collett said he had reviewed security footage of Fulps inside the jail. Public Information Office Director Casey Roebuck said following the press conference that she anticipated some open records requests being fulfilled “soon,” though she did not specify which ones she meant.