In October 2015, 26-year-old Terral Ellis was in an Ottawa County, Oklahoma, jail on a DUI charge. He entered the jail on October 10, and 12 days later, he left on a stretcher – dead from septic shock. This week, the surveillance video of Ellis’ final hours, which contains audio, was released publicly as part of a federal lawsuit. The results are shocking.
The lawsuit charges the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, emergency medical services, and several staff members with “negligence and gross indifference,” leading to Ellis’ death. However, at this point, no criminal charges have been filed.
I Think I’m Dying
On what turned out to be the last day of his life, October 22, Ellis is seen in the footage in an isolation cell, begging for help from jail staff. He says he cannot breathe, and his back feels like it is broken. He also cannot feel his legs. “I think I’m dying,” he cries out.
Staff members ignore or make fun of him. One nurse said she would “chain him to the ground” if his complaints continued because there was not a “damn thing” wrong with him. Another employee accused him of “crying wolf.” Within hours, Ellis succumbed to his illness.
Healthy Upon Arrival
The video shows a healthy-looking Ellis entering the jail with his grandfather on October 10. At intake, it is noted that Ellis suffers from asthma and needs albuterol. Ellis is housed in the general population area of the jail, where he becomes friendly with other inmates. He tells one inmate about his young son and that he wants to get his life together so he can serve as a better dad.
However, after an argument with the staff, his friend is transferred out of the general population. Upon returning six days later, he notices Ellis’ appearance has changed. Ellis complained of back pain and lack of appetite and stayed in his bunk.
Sweating and Dehydrated
Ellis lays in bed for eight days, becoming severely dehydrated due to profuse sweating and lack of hydration. His friend tried to help him, but neither man could get jail staff to aid the sick Ellis. That same nurse who later mocked him took it upon herself to diagnose Ellis with a broken rib, as per her medical notes.
A detention officer accused Ellis of faking his illness so he could get out of jail.
On October 21, Ellis appears to suffer a seizure. The other inmates started “raising hell” to get staff members to help him. The same detention officer who accused Ellis of fakery, along with another officer, is heard on the video telling him that he was faking the seizure because he had no history of them.
The nurse did order paramedics to look at Ellis, but when they arrived, they failed to take his vital signs and told the nurse he was faking it. Ellis was then put into the isolation cell -which lacked a bed, sink, or toilet -from which he would only emerge as a dead man the following day.
Although he was supposed to have staff check on him every 15 minutes, the video show that did not occur. Although his legs were turning black from the sepsis, the staff did nothing.
Video Backs Up Inmates
The release of the video shows backs up what inmates said about Ellis’ death at the time. Because of the complete indifference of jail staff, a young man is dead, and his son will grow up without knowing his father. As his inmate friend says, “No one deserves to be treated like that. Something has to be done.”
If you or a loved one suffered death or catastrophic injuries at the hands of the police, prison guards or jail staff, you may be entitled to damages. Visit our inmate abuse information page for more details. Ready to see if you have a case? CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.