Mark Jimmerson died in Oklahoma County Jail — one day after his mom tried to save his life
Davey Mark Jimmerson turned 21-years-old on March 20. A little over a week later, at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, he was pronounced dead in his Oklahoma County jail cell. The young man, who was arrested in February 2016 on felony charges that included robbery with a dangerous weapon, suffered from asthma and had placed several calls to his mother Tonya Wilson, complaining about trouble breathing. He knew that his mother would know what to do to help him. “A lot of my mother’s kids have asthma,” Shaprese Wilson, Jimmerson’s older sister, said in an interview with Mic. “We are well aware how to manage it, how to treat it, how to control it, when to take action and when to just let it be.”
In regular phone conversations, the former high school athlete and aspiring professional football player told his mother that he had been given a breathing treatment and an allergy pill by medical personnel, but eventually Jimmerson stopped calling. His cellmate reached out to Jimmerson’s family to tell them that he was too ill to get out of bed to place the call for himself. Understanding that her son’s condition was worsening, Wilson had made several attempts to save his life.
She offered to bring his inhalers and administer his treatments. “She was there, the day before, with the solution,” Jimmerson’s sister said, “with the nebulizer, with the medication that goes in it. She had everything that he needed to live.” Despite her persistence, jail authorities refused to allow Wilson to see her son, promising that Jimmerson would be tended to by the jail’s medical personnel. “They told her it was going to cost,” Jimmerson’s sister said, crying. “They told her it was going to cost $60. She was like, ‘I don’t care how much it costs. It’s not about the money. He has $60 on his books. Take it from his commissary.'”
The following morning, police officers showed up at Tonya Wilson’s home to inform her that her son had been pronounced dead overnight. According Oklahoma County Sheriffs Office spokesperson Mark Opgrande, a state investigation into the cause of death is underway.
According to a December report put out by the Vera Institute for Justice and Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Criminal Justice Task Force, in recent years the Oklahoma County Jail has reported an alarming number of in-custody deaths. There have already been at least three reported jail deaths in 2017. Family members and community advocates say what happened to Jimmerson is a result of a dysfunctional criminal justice system, plagued with a lack of accountability.
“As soon as you enter the doors – really, as soon as you enter the court system – you are automatically dehumanized,” Candace Liger, a community organizer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma who is working with Jimmerson’s family, said. “You become incarcerated, and, sadly, the community no longer sees you as one of us. But it doesn’t justify a death, not on our watch.”