An Oklahoma inmate who alleged in a lawsuit that prison staff tortured inmates, forcing them into stress positions while playing the song “Baby Shark” for hourswas found dead in his cell.
John Basco was found unconscious around 3:50 a.m. Sunday by a detention officer conducting on-site checks, Oklahoma County Detention Center officials said in a statement. Press release.
Medical personnel were called and made efforts to save lives, but Basco, 48, was pronounced dead just after 4 a.m. His family has been notified, according to the statement.
The cause of death was not released, and detention center officials did not immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday.
Basco was one of four inmates who filed a federal civil rights lawsuit last year alleging that prison officers used excessive force and used disciplinary tactics, the lawsuit described as “events of torture”.
Named as defendants were Oklahoma County Sheriff Tommie Johnson III, the County Board of Commissioners, the prison trust and two former prison guards.
According to the lawsuit, Basco and inmate Daniel Hedrick were forced to stand in a stressful position while listening to “Baby Shark” at different times in late 2019.
Another inmate, Joseph Mitchell, was taken from his cell in November 2019 and placed in a room where he was forced into a ‘standing stress position’ for three to four hours while handcuffed behind his back, according to the trial.
The officers then played “Baby Shark” on a loop so loudly “that it reverberated through the hallways,” according to the lawsuit.
Inmate Ja’Lee Foreman Jr., according to the court filing, was not forced to listen to the song, but was placed in a stressful position and later kneeled from the back and slammed against a wall by one officer and spat on by another. .
The detainees, who were on remand at the time, posed no threat to officers, the lawsuit said.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater charged two former prison workers and their supervisor with misdemeanor cruelty in October 2020.
Prater was quoted in the lawsuit as saying that the practice of playing “Baby Shark” – a children’s song that exploded in popularity in 2019 – as a form of punishment was “cruel and inhumane” and that it put “undue emotional stress on inmates who were probably already suffering”.
Then Sheriff PD Taylor said the accused jail employees quit and their supervisor retired.
The lawsuit filed by the detainees is still pending. In July, a U.S. district court judge stayed an additional federal prosecution of the inmates until the criminal case against the prison workers was completed, with the next hearing scheduled for September 22. The Oklahoman Reports.
Cameron Spradling, an attorney for Basco, could not be reached Tuesday for comment. In a post on Twitter, he said his client’s death was “mysterious” and noted that Basco was the 14th inmate to die in jail this year.
“I mourn the loss of my client John Basco, a tortured baby shark, who died today in the custody of the Oklahoma County Jail. The worst jail in the world!” he tweeted.
Basco’s death comes nearly a month after an inmate died on August 19 by suicide, according to prison officials. Three inmates died at the prison in July, prison press releases note.
Antoine Planas contributed.