OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The first jail death of the year brings new scrutiny to the dangers of short stints at the Oklahoma County Detention Center.
Jail officials said 26-year-old Isiah Mitchell was in custody for just three days but died early Monday morning after an apparent suicide.
Mitchell was booked into the detention center on Jan. 27, 2023, by Oklahoma City police for being a bicycle rider failing to obey traffic laws, in addition to a prior misdemeanor warrant from Garfield County.
According to OCDC’s Mark Opgrande, jail staff found 26-year-old Isiah Mitchell attempting suicide in his cell just after midnight Monday.
Life-saving measures began immediately and were continued by EMSA and Oklahoma City Fire Department personnel.
EMSA took Mitchell to the hospital, where he was declared dead just after 1 a.m.
The state medical examiner’s office will release the official cause of death, but an official report could take months.
In the meantime, Isiah’s brother Aaron Mitchell spoke with KFOR, and said he doesn’t believe his brother would take his own life.
Reporter: “Saying your brother died by suicide, does that sound like something he would do?”
Aaron Mitchell: “No, that’s just something I’ve never believed him to do, ever.”
Mitchell said his family was contacted by an investigator who confirmed Isiah’s death, in addition to an ongoing investigation, but Mitchell said he didn’t know the jail presumed the death to be a suicide until he heard it mentioned by KFOR.
“We’re honestly waiting on the investigation to be complete so we can see what they actually say happened. But I don’t think it was a suicide [and] I just wish everyone would [get] to the bottom of it,” he said.
“There was a young lady who made a post on Facebook after probably about an hour after I heard about it and said that her baby’s father was next door to my brother in a different cell, but he could hear him for hours crying for help and asking for the nurse. And nobody sent the nurse to him,” he continued.
In a statement to KFOR, Mark Opgrande said there are phones in cells that allow detainees to call for help if they need it:
“When detainee calls for help on the phone located in their cell, central control relays the information over the radio and the officer on the pod or medical, depending on the type of help sought, responds to the cell to check on the detainee. If they need further help, the officer will radio to medical or other officers for assistance.”Mark Opgrande, OCDC
Oklahoma County’s Jail Trust recently named Maj. Brandi Garner as the new CEO of the county jail, following a tumultuous tenure by her predecessor, Greg Williams, which was marked by at least 35 detainee deaths.
KFOR contacted Garner directly to confirm the protocol but has not heard back yet.
County officials recently announced plans to move forward with construction of a new detention center, with a process to acquire approximately 40 to 80 acres of land.
In interviews previously with KFOR, proponents of new jail construction said a new design – to include one level instead of the current 13 levels with only three elevators, and equipped with a mental health and medical wing, as well as having distinct areas for low, middle, and maximum security inmates – could dramatically improve management issues, decrease inmate deaths and injuries, and make recruiting better quality employees easier.
Aaron Mitchell told KFOR he wonders if someone working in the jail Sunday night could have saved his brother’s life.
“Everyone that was there that night. I hope they get accountable because hours of crying for help could have been answered one time and he could have been saved,” he said.