Guards at an Oklahoma detention facility crushed an inmate’s windpipe so thoroughly that paramedics were unable to insert a life-saving breathing tube, even after five attempts. Paramedics say that jailers declined to inform them that the inmate had been placed in a brutal choke-hold until after they failed to revive him and had pronounced him dead.
According to records obtained by the Daily Beast, “A state medical examiner found the bone supporting Darius Robinson’s tongue was broken and the surrounding muscles were hemorrhaging from ‘manual compression of the neck,’ as a result of the chokehold used on him inside the Caddo County Jail on April 4. Robinson, a 41-year-old father of seven, died of asphyxiation in what the medical examiner ruled was a homicide.”
Robinson was arrested for failure to pay child support, then got into a scuffle with officers while in custody. Caddo County paramedics LaRoyce Fanning and Ryan Warren said they arrived on the scene and attempted five times to insert an endotracheal tube to allow the man to breathe, but they were unsuccessful.
It was only after they failed to resuscitate Robinson that Fanning and Warren realized his airway had been crushed. Jailers failed to tell the paramedics about the chokehold they’d used to subdue the inmate.
The attorney hired by Robinson’s family said that the silence of correctional personnel “suggests consciousness of wrongdoing.”
“If you believed you were justified in using the chokehold, you would have told the paramedics about it,” said Spencer Bryan to the Daily Beast. “The fact that you wouldn’t disclose what you did to a first responder… it’s beyond conscionable.”
Caddo County Jail personnel Bryan David Porter, Michael Allen Smith, and Vicki Lyn Richardson told the paramedics that Robinson was suffering from symptoms of severe alcohol and drug withdrawal which required them to pepper spray him and take him to the ground.
After the takedown, they said, Robinson began to convulse and foam at the mouth, clear signs that he was in intense medical distress. Nonetheless, jailers handcuffed him and took turns holding him down until the paramedic team arrived.
Bryan told the Daily Beast that when paramedics arrived, Robinson didn’t have a pulse.
“He’s dead,” the attorney said. “He’s got nothing.”
Paramedics Fanning and Warren struggled to revive Robinson, but to no avail. Bryan said it’s unclear whether knowledge of the choke hold and the possibility that the inmate’s windpipe was crushed would have saved his life.
“It may not have made a difference,” he said, “but [the officers] don’t know that while they’re standing there.”
The case — which has been ruled a homicide by the state Medical Examiner’s Office — is currently under investigation by the Oklahoma State Board of Investigations and could proceed to a grand jury case. Caddo County District Attorney Jason Hicks told Bryan that he is waiting for the investigation to conclude before making a decision about whether to take the case further.
None of the jail personnel have been charged with a crime, although one has reportedly hired an attorney.
The family told Bryan that jailers have refused them access to video of the confrontation that led to Robinson’s death. Authorities say be began to act erratically after being incarcerated and was threatening to another inmate. They said that once in his own cell, he began to tear pages from a Bible and eat them along with ants he found on the floor.
They allege that when they attempted to subdue Robinson, he charged them, leading to the fatal choke-hold.
Bryan says the truth will remain elusive until the video can be examined.
“The only way we’ll know more than we do now is with the tape,” he said.
Watch video from June about the medical examiner’s ruling, embedded below: