Caddo County District Attorney Jason Hicks cited his interpretation of the state’s open records law as justification for withholding reports and video footage documenting the death of Darius Robinson at the county lockup in the rural town of Anadarko, Oklahoma.
Robinson, a father to seven children, died on April 5, 2016; an autopsy report ruled his death a homicide by “asphyxiation due to manual neck compression.” Video cameras recorded as jailers, identified by The Daily Beast as Bryan David Porter, Michael Allen Smith and Vicki Lyn Richardson, strangled Robinson on the floor of the jail’s booking area while he was handcuffed and covered in pepper spray. He had been arrested on an eight-year-old warrant for failure to pay child support.
Although Hicks refused to release the surveillance video to Robinson’s family or the media, authorities claimed Robinson had been seen eating pages out of a Bible and eating ants off the floor in the booking area. They said he was screaming and threatening another prisoner before he charged at guards who responded. No drugs or alcohol was found in Robinson’s system according to the autopsy report, ruling out intoxication as a reason for his alleged erratic behavior.
The day after Robinson’s death, his brother, Ancio, traveled to Oklahoma from his home in California, walked into the jail in Anadarko and met with undersheriff Spencer Davis. “He leaned back in his chair, pushed his cowboy hat back on his head and just told me ‘Sometimes these things happen here,’” Ancio said. “Just like that. With monotone. It was very unsettling to me.”
Robinson’s death was neither the Caddo County jail’s first fatality nor its first controversy. In 2014, prisoner Antonio Jimenez died after being pepper-sprayed by guards. That same year, three jailers were arrested for smuggling methamphetamine, alcohol and tobacco into the facility, and a former jail administrator was arrested for stealing more than $5,000 from a local Native American tribe. At least four lawsuits have been filed since 2010 alleging inadequate medical care at the jail.
“I just want to get this out there,” Ancio Robinson stated. “I just want people to know about this case, to know how the law operates in Caddo County, and to know there’s a place called Anadarko.”
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