An Oklahoma County inmate who was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the county accusing officials of torturing him and other inmates with a loop of the song “Baby Shark” died Sunday at the jail, the 14th death at the troubled facility this year.
John Basco, 48, was found unresponsive in his cell shortly after 3:50 a.m. Sunday, according to a Department of Corrections release. Officers tried to save their lives until emergency services arrived and continued resuscitation efforts on Basco, the statement said.
Basco was pronounced dead around 4:06 a.m., jail officials said. He was booked into jail on Thursday on a drug-trafficking complaint.
The state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will make a final determination on Basco’s cause of death. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation will also assist in the investigation, prison officials said.
“One of the possibilities being investigated is that it was a drug overdose,” Mark Opgrande, director of communications for the jail, told The Oklahoman.
More:Federal lawsuit filed after former inmates forced to listen to ‘Baby Shark’ on loop
In a case that drew international attention, Basco and three other inmates sued the county last year after accusing two former detention officers, Gregory Cornell Butler Jr. and Christian Charles Miles, for forcing them to listen to loud repetitions of the popular children’s song. “Baby Shark” for extended periods of time while standing with their hands handcuffed behind them against a wall in November and December 2019. Former Lt. Christopher Raymond Hendershott was also sued for learning about the abuse but doing nothing about to stop her.
The lieutenant retired and the two detention officers were fired by then-Sheriff P.D. Taylor, after the investigation confirmed that inmates were subjected to discipline in a lawyer’s visiting room, in some cases for up to two hours. Lawyers representing the detainees described the incidents as “torture events” and the three officers were charged with misdemeanor cruelty to a prisoner and conspiracy.
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In July, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Friot stayed an additional federal lawsuit by the inmates against the county commissioners and current Sheriff Tommie Johnson III until the criminal case is concluded. The next hearing is scheduled for September 22.
Cameron Spradling, Basco’s attorney, said he found the circumstances of Basco’s death “disturbing” and asked that “all evidence be immediately preserved” as the OSBI’s investigation progresses.
“I’m really bothered by that,” Spradling said. “One of the victims of ‘Baby Shark’ is conveniently dead within three days of arriving at the jail. How does this happen? Prosecutor David Prater just lost one of his witnesses for the upcoming criminal trial. To me, he doesn’t pass the smell test’.
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Basco’s death was the 14th at the prison this year and comes amid a period of heightened scrutiny and outcry against the facility, which has long been plagued by overcrowding, poor living conditions, staffing problems and frequent deaths.
The 13th death, 52-year-old Danny Paulin, was a suicide on August 19. The 12th death occurred on July 31 after 50-year-old Robert Richards was also found unresponsive in his cell.
On June 28, Oklahoma County voters approved a $260 bond package to build a new jail, which elected officials and jail administrators hope will serve as a solution to ongoing problems at the facility.
This article originally appeared in The Oklahoman: ‘Baby Shark’ Torture Case: Plaintiff Dies in Oklahoma County Jail