A disturbing video recently released by the Caddo County District Attorney’s office captured an Oklahoma civilian corrections officer crushing a handcuffed inmate’s windpipe. Although the death was ruled a homicide, the DA decided not to file charges against the jailer.
Arrested on April 1 on a 2008 warrant for failing to pay child support, Darius Robinson had been detained at the Caddo County jail while reportedly experiencing withdrawal from Xanax. On a jail surveillance video recorded at 8:43 p.m. on April 4, Robinson appeared pacing back and forth across his cell exhibiting erratic behavior.
Described by his attorney as experiencing a “manic episode,” Robinson waved around a blanket before tearing up pieces of paper and writhing on the floor of his cell. An hour later, jailers Michael Allen Smith and Vicki Lyn Richardson entered the cell while kicking at scraps of paper on the floor as Robinson sat on a bench. Although the video does not have audio, attorneys for Robinson’s family asserted that a supervisor encouraged the officer to “choke him out.”
In the video, Robinson moved to another bench and sat down again when Smith suddenly grabbed him. As the two men began to struggle, Richardson fired pepper spray directly into the inmate’s face. While Smith immediately placed Robinson in a guillotine choke, Richardson continued to pepper-spray the inmate’s face as both men fell to the floor.
Although Robinson had ceased struggling as Richardson cuffed his hands behind his back, Smith clearly continued to choke the subdued inmate for over a minute. According to his autopsy report, Robinson’s windpipe had been crushed, the hyoid bone supporting his tongue had been fractured, and the surrounding muscles had been hemorrhaging blood.
Despite the fact that the correctional officers and paramedics attempted to resuscitate him, Robinson died on the floor of his cell. According to Department of Health documents released earlier this month, Smith failed to inform the paramedics that he had applied a chokehold on the inmate.
Although Caddo County District Attorney Jason Hicks released the video of Robinson’s death on Monday, he refused to file criminal charges against Smith. Both Smith and Richardson were placed on paid administrative leave following the incident.
“In this hour, justice has not been reached. The jailer’s not supposed to be the executioner,” an attorney for the Robinson family, Malik Shabbaz, said at a news conference this week. “He died from being strangled to death right here in this jail cell. That is unacceptable.”
After viewing the video, Robinson’s family has decided to file a federal lawsuit against the officers involved in his death. Despite the fact that his death was ruled a homicide, no officer has been charged with killing Robinson.