Lawsuit accuses juvenile detention center of neglect, letting 16-year-old die

  • Quinton Chandler

The estate of a 16-year-old boy who committed suicide in a Muskogee juvenile detention center has filed a lawsuit against multiple government agencies and employees arguing the boy’s life could have “easily” been saved if staff had done their jobs.

Billy Woods’ estate is suing the Office of Juvenile Affairs, the Muskogee Board of County Commissioners, the Muskogee County Council of Youth Services — which operated the detention center — and a handful of detention center employees, the Frontier reports.

According to the lawsuit, which seeks money for actual and punitive damages, Woods told staff members he had attempted suicide previously and the staff could have saved his life if they had followed their own procedures and checked on him every 15 minutes. 

The suit suggests video cameras show Woods was unattended for more than two hours on the day he died, but staff members falsified logs to make it appear they had checked on Woods more frequently, the news site reports.

The suit is also critical of staff’s failure to act when they found Woods unresponsive. The Frontier’s Kassie McClung reports: 

According to the suit, when Lang found Woods unresponsive hours after staff last checked on him, the supervisor allegedly did not attempt to help him, check his vitals or remove the sheet from his neck, but instead closed the door to his room and told Miller not to conduct CPR.

The lawsuit claims the supervisor took a long cigarette break instead of trying to help Woods, accuses staff of waiting to call 911 until 20 minutes after Woods was found unresponsive, and accuses supervisor who found Woods of “humiliating and belittling” him before his death.

A state investigation found staff neglected and mentally abused other youths detained at the facility.