Family of Oklahoma man who died in police custody files lawsuit

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — The family of a man who died in police custody is demanding what they say is justice.

Olain Jefferson died at St. Anthony’s hospital about an hour after he struggled with medical workers and Oklahoma City police officers in May 2020. 

His family is now suing the Oklahoma County Commission, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, and Oklahoma City Police Department. 

“We need to know that an investigation was done the proper way so that they know his life was taken in vain,” said Gregory Denney. 

Denney is representing Jefferson‘s family. They are seeking more than $2 million in punitive damages. 

In May of 2020, the attorney says Jefferson went to Southwest Medical Center complaining about chest pains; the medical staff says he refused to cooperate. When asked to leave, they say he threw a phone. 

Police bodycam footage showed when officers arrived. At one point, six people were trying to hold Jefferson down. 

“We were able to obtain the body cam video and the footage from the jail under the freedom of information request we sent the government,” said Denney. “We received those videos. We felt like it was enough to file an excessive force claim against the government.” 

A shirtless Jefferson was taken to the Oklahoma County Jail after the incident when suddenly he stopped breathing. Paramedics performed CPR on Jefferson but were unable to revive him. 

An autopsy report indicated Jefferson’s cause of death was a blood clot in his leg. It also revealed Jefferson suffered from heart disease, and his urine tested positive for PCP. 

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“Whenever you are dumped onto the ground, and you end up having an embolism or a clot, that’s what ended up caught to is death,” said Denney. “Drugs really are not what is at stake here. The way they treated him is what is at stake here.” 

Back in September, the District Attorney’s Office clear at the officers involved in any wrongdoing. 

At the time, the DA said, “I have also determined that Olain Jefferson‘s death was not the result of any action by any individual or group of individuals other than Mr. Jefferson himself.” 

KFOR reached out to the sheriff’s department, police department, and county commission about the lawsuit. All three entities declined to comment on the pending litigation.

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