OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — There are often big differences in how family members experience a person and how the legal system experiences that same person.
The family of Curtis “Buff” Williams held a news conference Monday to express their sorrow about his death. Williams was the detainee shot and killed by police during a hostage situation Saturday at the Oklahoma County Jail.
While acknowledging Williams’ faults and mistakes that landed him in jail, they also talked about who he was to them and his children.
They, and others who advocate for reform of the Oklahoma County Jail, also decried what a growing number of metro residents consider to be inhumane conditions there.
“No one would want to be living like animals,” said Rhonda Lambert, mother of Williams.
And, they believe the conditions there as he waited for two years for trial caused his mental state to deteriorate over time leading to the hostage situation.
Williams’ mother, stepfather, aunt, cousin, and one of two early teen children were introduced along with the mother of the children.
The news conference was no-doubt intended to counter some reporting early Sunday, the next day, that focused on Williams’ alleged criminal history sourced by “authorities.”
One news source on Sunday said Williams was “known at the Oklahoma County jail as a troublemaker.” (By Monday morning that language had been changed.)
Williams was on the tenth floor of the jail which is for those who have been disruptive in the population. Williams had been charged with assault and battery of a detention officer weeks before.
Saturday a hostage situation developed when detainees on the tenth floor, D pod, rushed a jailer who had opened a cell door to let detainees throw away some trash according to Jail Administrator Greg Williams.
He told Free Press Monday that at first he got reports that it happened during med pass when a nurse and a jailer hand out prescribed medications.
But, by Monday he said the actual situation was that while the jailer was picking up food trays from a meal, he was lured into opening the cell door. Each cell door has a “bean hole” that allows food to be passed through without unlocking it.
As the situation developed, Jail administration called for the Sheriff’s department to respond, which is a procedure they follow said Williams during a news conference Saturday night at the end of the ordeal.
Sherriff Tommie Johnson III said in that same news conference that the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) Tactical Team arrived in about six minutes but only had three of the team there. Deputies with other duties like patrol were scattered around the entire county at the time and could not arrive quickly. So, the Oklahoma City Police Department (OKCPD) Tactical Team was asked to join them to mass enough officers to take control of the pod where the hostage was being held.
Two members of the OKCPD Tactical Team shot and killed Williams when they encountered him in the pod. The two officers were Lt. Coy Gilbert and Officer Kevin Kuhlman.
“They treat animals at the Oklahoma City Zoo better than they treat people in here,” Williams’ aunt said about the Jail behind them. “Don’t treat them like animals.”
Family members and advocates listed conditions of the jail they consider to be less than humane for those who are awaiting trial or are serving sentences.
Food that is not even fit for anyone to eat, “filth” and “stench”, days without showers or recreation, bed bug infestations, and denial of medicines were among the conditions they listed as making the Jail less than humane.
Williams mother said that the conditions in the jail drove her son “and so many others like him to lose self control.”
“From the cell phone video, we saw the inmates pleading for better living conditions,” said Lambert as she cried. “It’s what anyone would want.”
She, and others in the group criticized OKCPD for not using less-than-lethal means to subdue Williams.
The family members and advocates have heard from other detainees through phone calls that the hostage had been turned loose by the time Williams was shot. But, so far that has not been confirmed.
Williams had been in the Jail since April 8, 2019 — nearly two years — as he waited for his trial on felony charges.
His family told Free Press afterward that they could see his mental and emotional state deteriorating.
“I’ve been seeing Curtis since I was 15 years old and this was just not him,” said Alyssa Wesley, mother of Williams’ two children.
She said he had “a great heart” and that she would talk to him on the phone about every other day.
“I could just see the mental anguish and the hurt in him,” Wesley said. “Sometimes he would just say ‘I want to die. I want to die. I hate it in here.”
“I know that that wasn’t him,” she said. “He was just so fed up.”
Last Updated April 1, 2021, 8:49 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor