OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Protestors with Oklahoma Coalition Against People Abuse joined the family of John Basco on Wednesday to demand answers after the 14th inmate death at the Oklahoma County Detention Center in 2022.
“What’s his name? John Basco!” shouted the group outside the jail Wednesday morning.
The Oklahoma Coalition Against People Abuse said since 2016, nearly 80 inmates have died inside the detention center.
“That is 13.2 inmates that’s dying a year,” said Michael Washington, who organized the event.
The latest inmate to die behind jail doors is John Basco.
Jail officials said he died early Sunday morning, just days after being brought in on drug and weapons charges. However, friends said he was much more than that.
“He’s a mentor. He’s someone who wants to help the young,” said. Dr. Charles Whiters-Bey. “It’s sad, because we need his leadership in our communities.”
The 48-year-old was also involved in a lawsuit over a 2019 incident at the jail, when Basco and other inmates were allegedly taken out of their cells, handcuffed, and forced to listen to the children’s song “Baby Shark” for hours. The case is set to go to trial.
Meanwhile, the group protesting Wednesday calls Basco’s death suspicious.
“Did the jail staff finish what they started in 2019?” said Washington. “John was killed in order to try to kill the federal lawsuit he has filed in.”
“They have nearby jails they could’ve took him to until the situation was taken care of,” said Whiters-Bey. “We lost a brother to something as senseless as this.”
Now, the group is demanding information surrounding Basco’s death including the names of the correctional officers working the area at the time, security footage of Basco in the hours leading up to his death, an independent investigation, and an independent autopsy.
“We have reason to believe that the Oklahoma County Medical [examiner’s] office, listen carefully, are in cahoots with the enigmatic jail behind me. And if you allow them to continue to perform the same coverup they are going to continue,” said Washington.
“This is going to hurt, not just the family, but the community,” said Whiters-Bey.
Jail officials declined to go on camera, but did send News 4 the following statement:
“We would like to once again express our sympathies to Mr. Basco’s family and loved ones,” Opgrande said. “As an organization, we are deeply affected by every tragic loss in our facility.” “The outside investigation into the cause of Mr. Basco’s death continues,” he said. “We will carefully review the results and look for potential ways to improve our operations to protect detainees and staff.” “As others have noted, illegal drugs, especially fentanyl, have contributed to previous deaths in our facility. Our staff is dedicated to doing everything we can to stop the smuggling of contraband into our facility and to warn detainees about the dangers of these drugs,” he said. “We will continue to work every day to provide the best possible security.”Mark Opgrande, Director of Communications, Oklahoma County Detention Center
News 4 also reached out to the Medical Examiner’s office, but we did not hear back.
The family has also started a GoFundMe to help with funeral costs.