Plaintiff in 'Baby Shark' torture case dies Sunday at Oklahoma County jail
An Oklahoma County jail inmate who was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the county accusing employees of torturing him and other inmates with a loop of the "Baby Shark" song 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 media release from jail officials. Officers attempted life-saving efforts until emergency responders arrived and continued attempts to resuscitate Basco, the statement read.
Basco was pronounced dead at around 4:06 a.m., jail officials said. He had been booked into the jail Thursday on a drug trafficking complaint.
The state's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will make a final determination regarding the cause of Basco's death. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation will also assist with the investigation, jail 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 jail inmates forced to listen to "Baby Shark" on loop
In a case that attracted international attention, Basco and three other jail inmates sued the county last year after accusing two former detention officers, Gregory Cornell Butler Jr., and Christian Charles Miles, of forcing them to listen to loud repeats of the popular children's song "Baby Shark" for extended periods of time while standing with their hands cuffed behind them to a wall in November and December 2019. Former Lieutenant Christopher Raymond Hendershott was also sued for learning about the mistreatment but doing nothing to stop it.
The lieutenant retired and the two detention officers were fired by then-Sheriff P.D. Taylor, after an investigation confirmed the inmates were subjected to the discipline in an attorney visitation room, in some cases as long as two hours. Lawyers representing the detainees described the incidents as "torture events," and the three officers were charged with misdemeanor counts of cruelty to a prisoner and conspiracy.
Related:Florida officials play 'Baby Shark' on repeat to keep homeless people out of local park
In July, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Friot stayed an additional federal lawsuit from the inmates against county commissioners and the current Sheriff Tommie Johnson III until the criminal case concludes. The next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 22.
Cameron Spradling, Basco's attorney, said he found the circumstances of Basco's death "disturbing" and called for "all evidence (to be) preserved immediately" as the OSBI investigation unfolds.
"I'm really bothered by this," Spradling said. "One of the 'Baby Shark' victims is conveniently dead within three days of his arrival at the jail. How does that happen? District Attorney David Prater just lost one of his witnesses for the upcoming criminal trial. For me, this one does not pass the smell test."
Latest inspection renews concerns:Can a new Oklahoma County jail fix problems?
Basco's death was the 14th at the jail this year and comes amid a period of increased scrutiny and outcry against the facility, which has long been plagued with issues of overcrowding, poor living conditions, staffing troubles and frequent deaths.
The 13th death, 52-year-old Danny Paulin, resulted from a suicide Aug. 19. The 12th death occurred July 31 after 50-year-old Robert Richards was also found unresponsive in his cell.
On June 28, Oklahoma County voters approved a $260 million bond package to construct a new jail, which elected officials and jail trustees hope will serve as a solution to problems that have persisted at the facility.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had the incorrect bond amount approved by voters for a new jail. It is $260 million.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: "Baby Shark" torture case: Plaintiff dies at Oklahoma County jail