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Inmate suing over ‘Baby Shark’ torture dies in Oklahoma jail cell, attorney says

Jail cell block. (Bob Jagendorf/WikiCommons)

A man suing over alleged jail torture died in his cell three days after landing back in the Oklahoma jail, according to his attorney.

John Basco was one of three inmates who said they were forced to stand in a room handcuffed to a wall for hours as the “Baby Shark” children’s song blared in the background, McClatchy News reported.

The lawsuit filed in November 2021 cited clinical psychologist John Mayer, who described “Baby Shark” as an agonizing song that can “elicit a painful reaction in the brain” with its high-pitched tones and “screechy” sounds.

‘Baby Shark’ song was used as torture in Oklahoma County jail, inmates say in lawsuit

Basco, 48, was re-booked into the Oklahoma County jail on Thursday, Sept. 8, on charges of drug trafficking and carrying a firearm as a convicted felon, according to KFOR.

About three days later, shortly after 3:50 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11, a detention officer “performing site checks” found Basco unresponsive in his jail cell, according to a news release from the Oklahoma County Detention Center.

“The detention officer called for medical and other officers to respond, and they immediately began life-saving efforts,” authorities said. “Emergency responders arrived and continued resuscitation efforts.”

Basco was pronounced dead at about 4:06 a.m. He was the 14th person to die at the jail this year, according to The Oklahoman.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations will assist in the death investigation, and the State Medical Examiner’s Office will rule a cause of death, according to the news release.

Mark Opgrande, director of communications for the Oklahoma County Detention Center, said officials have confirmed “no obvious signs of foul play.”

“Additionally, we would like to note Mr. Basco’s lawsuit was against the previous jail administration, not against the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority or the current leadership,” he said in a statement. “We remain committed to providing the safest environment possible for detainees and staff.”

Cameron Spradling, the civil rights attorney representing Basco, said his client was “conveniently dead within three days of his arrival.”

“District Attorney David Prater lost his most important witness for the upcoming criminal trial,” he said in his statement. “The D.A. needs to immediately send his own investigators into that jail to find out why this victim/witness died under these mysterious circumstances.”

Prater did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News on Sept. 13, but he previously told The Oklahoman he wished he could have filed felony charges against the officers accused of inmate torture.

Rather, two officers and a jail supervisor were charged with misdemeanor cruelty to a prisoner and conspiracy in connection to the mistreatment, McClatchy News reported.

The next hearing in the criminal filings is scheduled for Sept. 21.

“I don’t know if I’m angry, stunned, or sad. … It’s just too unbelievable,” Spradling said on Twitter. In another tweet, he called the Oklahoma County jail “the worst jail in the world.”

Spradling told McClatchy News he understands Basco’s death is being investigated as a drug overdose, but he adds that Basco is a “cleared-eyed calm man” in his Sept. 8 booking photo.

Basco was “in good health,” he tweeted.

The federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Basco and the other inmates seeks at least $75,000 in damages along with other relief “deemed just and equitable.”


© 2022 The Charlotte Observer

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