In a statement, Oklahoma County Detention Center officials said a detention officer found John Basco’s unresponsive body in the wee hours of Sunday. The officer was said to be performing site checks at the time.
Medical personnel who were called to Basco’s cell attempted to resuscitate him immediately after they arrived. But the 48-year-old inmate was later pronounced dead, and his family was notified, the statement added. Officials are yet to reveal his cause of death.
Last year, Basco and three other inmates filed a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing jail staffers of using excessive force and discipline methods against them. The suit referred to the methods as “torture events.”
The lawsuit was filed against Oklahoma County Sheriff Tommie Johnson III, the Board of County Commissioners, the jail trust, and two ex-jail officers, NBC News reported.
The suit alleges that on different occasions in late 2019, jail staffers forced Basco and another inmate to take stress position stands while they played the “Baby Shark” children’s song. In November 2019, another inmate was also similarly forced to take a stress position stand while he was in handcuffs, the lawsuit said, adding that the inmate was in that position for three to four hours.
The jail staffers then went ahead to repeatedly play “Baby Shark,” the lawsuit stated. The song was said to be so loud “that it was reverberating down the hallways.”
The complaint also alleged that a jail staffer spat on another inmate after he was initially forced to take the same stand. Another officer also allegedly kneed the inmate’s back and hit him against a wall.
The lawsuit stated that the inmates did not pose any threat to the jail staffers. In October 2020, a supervisor and two jail staffers were charged with misdemeanor cruelty. The two jail workers ultimately resigned while their supervisor also retired.
In the lawsuit, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said that the playing of “Baby Shark” as a disciplinary practice was “cruel and inhumane” as the “inmates who were most likely already suffering” also had to endure “undue emotional stress.”
Cameron Spradling, who is Basco’s attorney, tweeted that the 48-year-old’s passing was “mysterious.” Spradling also said there have so far been 14 inmate deaths at Oklahoma County Jail this year.
“I mourn the loss of my client John Basco, a Baby Shark Torture Victim, who died today in the custody of the Oklahoma County Jail. The worst jail in the world!” he posted.