Video released Wednesday showed a Georgia 22-year-old Black man charged with a misdemeanor left naked in his cell to die while on suicide watch.
Shali Tilson had been in custody in the Rockdale County Jail in suburban Atlanta on a disorderly conduct charge for nine days before he died March 12, 2018, from a sudden blockage in his lungs due to dehydration, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which performed Tilson’s autopsy.
Tilson, who battled bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, should have been checked every 15 minutes on suicide watch according to the jail’s policy, but video revealed no one opened a door he kept knocking on for eight hours, local TV station Fox 5 reported.
His family told the news station he lost 20 pounds while in solitary confinement, and the family’s attorney said Tilson was left without water for about three days.
“They treated my son worse than an animal, and you mean to tell me what she saw, nobody’s being held accountable?” Tilson’s mother, Tynesha Tilson, said during a news conference Wednesday at her attorney’s Decatur office.
When authorities refused to release the videos of Tilson’s final hours of life, citing the ongoing criminal investigation, they were given to the Tilson family by an anonymous “good Samaritan,” Mawuli Mel Davis, one of the family’s attorneys, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Jeff Filipovits, co-counsel for Tilson’s family, told the newspaper he found the video “disturbing.”
“I’ve watched this video dozens of times and I still see it,” he said. “I still think about this child sitting in this cell.”
Filipovits and Mawuli Mel Davis filed a federal lawsuit in March when an internal investigation revealed jail workers falsified documents claiming they checked on Tilson prior to his death, the AJC reported.
Instead, videos showed Tilson looking out a small window in the cell’s door, pressing an emergency button on the wall and no one coming.
Official investigation later found the button wasn’t working, according to the AJC. He later collapsed in his cell.
“We have never seen this kind of treatment of a human being,” Davis said.