An ongoing civil rights case has revealed the disturbing treatment of Elliott Williams as he lay critically injured on the floor of his Tulsa County Jail cell for five days. In 2011, the 37-year-old black Army veteran, who had a record of mental illness, was taken into custody after allegedly causing a disturbance in a local Marriott hotel lobby. Williams’ father says a marital breakdown was the cause of his son’s distress, and he was charged with misdemeanor obstruction after being pepper sprayed by police. A dive into the Oklahoma State Court Network database reveals that Elliott hadn’t had more than a few traffic violations in Oklahoma prior to this run-in with the law.
Williams later ended up incapacitated with a broken neck before passing away. The Daily Beast dug into more details as the federal case heats up. The local station NewsOn6 had already published details from the booking report:
Owasso police records show Williams was having a mental breakdown, rambling about God, eating dirt and asked officers twice to shoot him. He was dancing, crawling on the floor, barking like a dog and repeatedly slamming his head into a cell door … In the booking area, he was screaming “Cut it out of my belly!”
The civil rights suit claims that Williams’ behavior should have alerted authorities to transport him to a hospital or mental health facility. That didn’t happen, and Williams was instead taken to the Tulsa County Jail. Once there, records show that he slammed his head into his cell door, which caused him to fall to the floor where he never recovered. Williams stayed on the ground, paralyzed, and communicated to guards that he could not move, but “a nurse said she thought Williams was faking it.”
From there, Williams spent his final five days prone on a concrete floor. He was taken once to a shower (after soiling himself), and guards were frustrated that the veteran “would not stand up, but we did give him a shower anyway.” They dumped him into the stall and left him for an hour, even as he begged for help while lying face down. Guards dragged him back to his cell; they intermittently dropped food and drink next to Williams, but his injuries were so severe that he could not partake. Guards refused to help him, and this CCTV video shows him trying to reach for water for 48 hours.
Williams’ father tells The Daily Beast that he was not allowed to visit his son because of his condition, which medical and psychiatric staff all said was pure fakery. In the video, you can see guards periodically entering the cell and seemingly taunting the man, who could barely wave his arms. Daniel Smolen, the Williams family attorney, believes the case will not be settled and will end up in court. He says Williams died “a slow, torturous death … You’re cognizant of it the whole time. It’s like a nightmare.” Smolen adds that this case is symptomatic of “a toxic cover-up culture within the sheriff’s office.”
Indeed, this isn’t the only recently glaring incident for Tulsa County law enforcement. Then-Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who is one of the parties named in the Williams family federal lawsuit, remains under fire for other incidents stemming from his tenure. He was indicted by a grand jury in January for allegedly misappropriating funds. This grand jury was also called for the purpose of investigating the death of Eric Harris, an unarmed black man who was shot by a Glanz associate. Robert Bates claims he pursued Harris on foot and confused his gun with a taser. Smolen believes that the Harris case helped shine light on a reign of corruption in the Tulsa Sheriff’s office, including Williams’ torturous death.
Sheriff Glanz’s retirement has not been a peaceful one. He’s currently the subject of eight active lawsuits and counting.