A mentally ill prisoner whose neck, back and pelvis were broken in the Tulsa Jail was taken to the hospital in a deputy’s patrol car and the sheriff’s office refuses to release video showing how he was injured.
Medical records obtained by The Frontier indicate the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office may have waited several days to take the inmate to a hospital. The records also call into question statements that Sheriff Vic Regalado made Wednesday describing how the prisoner, David Fulps II, became injured in the jail.
Regalado’s office has denied a request by The Frontier for video showing how Fulps sustained his injuries, including Fulps’ reported fall down the stairs while handcuffed on April 29. Regalado did not respond to a request for an interview for this story.
A spokeswoman for Regalado said in an email that jail videos are not public records. However the sheriff’s office did not respond to a request to cite specific legal exemptions. Numerous court rulings and state law contradict that position.
Fulps’ parents told The Frontier they want answers about what happened to their son. His mother, Lynn Grimes, said she believes her son was beaten in the jail based on statements he has made to her.
“I haven’t pressed him because he’s in so much pain,” she said.
Doctors told Fulps’ parents that his injuries were of the type and severity usually seen in car accidents.
Attorney Dan Smolen, who represents Fulps, said transporting an inmate with a broken neck, back and pelvis in a patrol car is “shocking.” He noted that Fulps’ neck and back would not have been stabilized before transport.
“You are talking about a very severe injury that is going untreated.”
Smolen said Fulps is at least the third inmate with a history of mental illness who sustained a broken neck at the jail that was not properly treated since 2011. Regardless of what caused Fulps’ injuries, he should have been transported in an ambulance, he said.
“Whether or not they are occurring because someone jumped off a bunk bed or because some DOs beat the shit out of the kid, they are not treating these people like they are human beings. … I don’t know how many broken necks they have to have before they start treating people consistent with their injuries.”
Medical records show ‘serious spine injury’
Fulps, 38, has a history of mental illness but no prior criminal history is reflected in Tulsa County court records. On April 5, Fulps asked to look at a used Acura SUV at a Tulsa Kia dealership and then drove off with the car, leaving his license behind, records show.
Later that day, he drove the stolen Acura to an Audi dealer and asked to test drive an Audi A7 sedan. Fulps drove away in that car after the salesman briefly got out of the car. Employees at the dealership found the stolen Acura Fulps had parked on their lot.
Employees of an Office Depot reported that a man matching Fulps’ description walked out of the store that day without paying for two boxes of toner cartridges and drove away in an Audi with dealer tags.
Police found the stolen Audi parked in front of Fulps’ condominium on April 8, near 45th and Peoria.
When police tried to arrest Fulps, he refused to come out of his apartment and “started rambling about governmental and police abuse of power, and asking whether we were talking about law enforcement,” records state.
“Fulps continued for about half an hour, but eventually said he intended to come out,” the arrest report states. “Fulps was taken into custody without incident after he got dressed.”
During a meeting of the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority Wednesday, Regalado said Fulps was injured when he jumped from a sink to a bed. He said medical personnel in the jail “obviously rendered aid” and Fulps was taken to a hospital.
However, Regalado did not say when Fulps was injured or when he was taken to a hospital.
Medical records and interviews with Fulps’ parents raise questions about when and how he sustained his most serious injuries and how long he waited for treatment.
Records show Fulps allegedly fell down a staircase at the jail while handcuffed at the jail on April 29.
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.”
Fulps is about 5’8 tall and weighs 165 pounds, records show.
It is unclear how seriously Fulps was injured in that fall and whether he received treatment at the jail or a hospital.
Three days later, on May 2, the sheriff’s office took Fulps to OSU Medical Center in a patrol car, records show.
Though Regalado said Fulps was injured when he jumped from a sink to a bed, the hospital’s report states: “The patient is apparently isolated in his jail, so when he dove off the top bunk onto the floor, he experienced a brief loss of consciousness.”
That report does not mention any prior hospital treatment for injuries.
Medical records show Fulps was diagnosed with a fractured vertebrae in his neck, a fractured pelvis, fracture of a bone in the lower spine and a fractured rib. Fulps also had a “large abrasion” on his forehead.
OSU Medical Center records state Fulps needed immediate surgery for his “serious cervical spine injury” and fractured pelvis. The hospital lacked a neurosurgeon and Fulps was transferred in serious condition to St. John Medical Center, where he remains hospitalized.
Grimes said she and her husband went to visit their son on his birthday, May 2, in the jail and were told they could not see him. She said they were not aware he had been taken to the hospital that day.
A detention officer said they could not see him because “there’s a policy where if someone has been transferred within 24 hours, they don’t get a visit,” Grimes said.
Fulps’ parents said they did not know where he was until they received a call from a jail chaplain, who said he would set up a visit days later.
Fulps’ father, David, said he asked doctors how his son could have sustained the injuries.
“His doctor said, ‘I see this in car wrecks,’ ” he said.
‘Shocking’ lack of transparency
Records show the sheriff’s office charged Fulps with assault and battery on a detention officer for an incident on April 9, the day after his arrest. Fulps allegedly threw a chair, which hit an officer, and broke a computer monitor at the jail. Later while being taken to his cell, he tried to bite a detention officer, reports state.
TCSO also charged Fulps with assault and battery on a detention officer on April 29, the date he fell down the stairs handcuffed.
The Frontier has requested records including jail video of both incidents. The jail has numerous cameras in both locations.
Both charges and Fulps’ original auto theft and larceny charges were dropped by prosecutors and the sheriff’s office “due to medical reasons,” court records state.
In the past, TCSO has sought to have charges dropped against inmates who are seriously injured in order to avoid paying their medical bills. In a recent case, TCSO released an inmate on his own recognizance despite the fact that he was in a hospital after trying to hang himself.
Smolen called on the sheriff’s office to release video of Fulps’ treatment in the jail.
“It’s shocking that after the last administration was indicted and completely removed from office … that a new administration after witnessing all of that and after maintaining a platform of transparency … we’re not seeing any signs of change.”
Former Sheriff Stanley Glanz was indicted on two misdemeanor charges, including refusing to release public records related to Reserve Deputy Robert Bates.
Regalado won a special election to complete Glanz’s term. He faces challenger Luke Sherman, a Tulsa police sergeant, in the general election in June.
Smolen said he believes the sheriff’s office transported Fulps in a patrol car in order to avoid attention and liability.
“They don’t want to create EMSA records, incur the costs, they don’t want people talking about it,” he said.
Smolen has sued the sheriff’s office in federal court more than a dozen times over inmate deaths and injuries at the jail. In two of those cases, inmates with a history of mental illness somehow sustained broken necks at the jail that were not properly treated, he said.
Gwendolyn Young, who died at the jail in 2013, “was vomiting blood and they refused to take her to the hospital for days,” he said. Young’s daughter said that her mother claimed “she had been pushed down the stairs shackled,” Smolen said.
Like Fulps, Young was also being held in a segregation cell.
“She died in the jail and an autopsy showed that she had neck fracture and blunt trauma to the head. None of that is documented at the sheriff’s office … and all we know is what the daughter told us, that she had been pushed down the stairs.”
In 2011, a veteran with mental illness and no criminal record died in the jail with a broken neck after laying on a floor untreated for days.
Elliott Williams was distraught over the breakup of his marriage and suffering a mental breakdown when he was arrested by Owasso police. Williams was taken to the Tulsa Jail, where he refused to comply with orders and Owasso officers in the pre-booking area “took him to the ground by his head and neck,” reports state.
Though he could not stand after that and said he thought his neck was broken, Williams was left on the floor of his jail cell for 51 hours. Records show detention officers and medical staff said they believed he was faking paralysis.
At one point, after Williams had lost bowel control, detention officers placed him unattended on the floor of a running shower for 45 minutes. He died hours after a nurse asked the jail’s physician, Phillip Washburn, to see if Williams should be sent to a hospital.
When the sheriff’s office asked Washburn why he didn’t heed warnings from a medical resident that Williams should be sent to a hospital, he said: “I swear I do not remember that! If it happened, it was my bad.”
Later, when asked about Williams’ death in a deposition, Washburn said: “People just die sometimes.”
The county and sheriff’s office have denied liability in the deaths of Williams and Young and deny their treatment represents deliberate indifference, as the suits claim.
Jail video released to ‘Lockup Tulsa’
Numerous court cases and language in the state Open Records Act contradict Regalado’s assertion that jail videos are not public records.
The act includes videos created by or maintained by public agencies in its definition of a public record. It also requires law enforcement agencies to make available records that show “facts concerning an arrest.”
The state Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that videos of DPS implied consent hearings were public records because they were “facts concerning an arrest.”
In 2014, the Civil Appeals Court ruled that dashcam videos of a DUI arrest made by Claremore police were open records. The court ruled that the videos depicted facts concerning an arrest including the cause of the arrest.
Fulps was charged with assaulting detention officers on two occasions in the jail and TCSO reports list the location of arrest as the jail.
The act also states If the records have previously been made available, the law shouldn’t be used to deny future requests.
“The provisions of this section shall not operate to deny access to law enforcement records if such records have been previously made available to the public as provided in the Oklahoma Open Records Act or as otherwise provided by law.”
TCSO released jail videos to NBC’s “Lockup Tulsa” show in 2013, including a video showing a group of inmates beating another inmate.
That same year, the jail also released video of a teenage murder suspect taken during a video phone call in the jail.
Additionally, videos recorded in the jail are already made public every day when prisoners are arraigned via video from the jail.
In an email Thursday morning, Regalado spokeswoman Casey Roebuck said the sheriff’s office was reviewing a followup request by The Frontier.