Black man on suicide watch was left naked in cell to die but officials denied it until family released video

Theodora Aidoo September 20, 2019
Shali Tilson. Pic credit: FOX 5 Atlanta

The family of an inmate who died while at the Rockdale County Jail in the U.S. state of Georgia has released a video which shows that the man was left naked in his cell to die while on suicide watch.

The 22-year-old Georgia Black man, Shali Tilson, who had been had been in custody on a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge for nine days, is said to have suffered from dehydration and was found dead on March 12 of last year.

According to the jail’s policy, Tilson, who battled bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, should have been checked every 15 minutes on suicide watch but a video has revealed that no one opened the door as he kept knocking for eight hours.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which performed Tilson’s autopsy, said he suffered a sudden blockage in his lungs due to dehydration.

Tilson’s mother, Tynesha Tilson, said during a news conference at her attorney’s Decatur office Wednesday: “They treated my son worse than an animal, and you mean to tell me what she saw, nobody’s being held accountable?”

His family and their attorneys are working on the federal lawsuit they’ve filed against Rockdale County, as well as, the sheriff and three deputies.

Citing the ongoing criminal investigation, authorities refused to release the videos of Tilson’s final hours of life, but an anonymous person shared the video, described as “disturbing”, with the family.

“I’ve watched this video dozens of times and I still see it.”

“I still think about this child sitting in this cell,” co-counsel Jeff Filipovits said.

According to the family of the 22-year-old inmate, the video shows that he tried to summon help before slumping down naked on the floor of his cell and dying.

Meanwhile, Filipovits and Mawuli Mel Davis represented the Tilson family at a federal lawsuit filed in March following an internal investigation which suggested that jail workers lied about checking up on Tilson prior to his death.

In the video, which was shown to reporters in Davis’ Decatur office, Tilson was seen looking out a small window in the cell’s door and pressing an emergency button on the wall but no one came to his rescue.

He later collapsed in his cell. An official investigation later found the button wasn’t functioning.

“We have never seen this kind of treatment of a human being, “We believe at that time, he knew he was in peril,” Davis said.

According to the video, more than two hours passed before deputies opened the door to the cell and checked on Tilson, who had already died.

They found him naked and surrounded by trash, according to an internal investigation by the sheriff’s office.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: September 21, 2019


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