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MECKLENBURG COUNTY, North Carolina (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – A lawsuit has been filed against Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden and several others in connection with the death of a teenager who committed suicide while that he was being held in Mecklenburg County Jail in November 2020.
The lawsuit claims that employees of the Mecklenburg County North Jail falsified records and provided inaccurate information about how often they checked on the 17-year-old boy while in custody.
The lawsuit states that before the teenager died, the rap lyrics ‘If I kill myself a real n**** killed me’, from the song Point Guard by artist NoCap, were uttered by the teenager two weeks before his death while in the custody of the Rockingham Sheriff’s Office.
According to the lawsuit, “[The teen’s] died on November 21, 2020, followed a promising but short life that was punctuated by tumult, childhood trauma, depression, substance abuse and family tragedy. [The teen] has experienced in its lifetime a long charade of educators, mental health professionals, law enforcement officials and administrators of juvenile detention centers – all of whom have taken a cavalier approach in their treatment of our most vulnerable and susceptible: a minor. Indeed, these professionals knew [the teen’s] struggle for many years. They have extensively documented his fight.
The lawsuit says the teen died while on remand at a Mecklenburg County-run juvenile detention center. His death follows an initial arrest by Rockingham County on November 5, 2020, and a subsequent two-week stay in a juvenile facility in Alexander County.
On the day of his death, jailers provided the 17-year-old with “all the tools to live the rap lyrics,” the lawsuit says.
The teenager was reportedly transferred and imprisoned hours away from his mother and support network in Mecklenburg County where he was assigned to a cell with no cellmate and left to languish in a cell lacking basic surveillance cameras inside his cell for about 2.5 hours, the lawsuit says.
“Completely alone, he was left to his thoughts for endless hours. Next, he was provided with the chosen and most obvious methods of suicide: sheets, sharp objects and a metal accessory from which to tie the sheets. For a teenager known to have been sexually abused at a tender age and actively suffering from drug addiction, to be left alone without observation and forced into his own thoughts of self-harm – it was tantamount to purgatory,” the lawsuit states.
The 17-year-old was reportedly found hanging from a sheet tied around his neck and tied to a metal grill covering the fire alarm fixed to the ceiling of his prison cell, the lawsuit says.
Documents indicate that a handwritten suicide note was discovered inside the cell. In the note, the teenager wrote, “Tell my family I’m sorry,” followed by “IICSARNKM.” The acronym: “If I kill myself, then a real n**** killed me,” the same rap lyric authorities had noticed the teenager repeating himself just two weeks earlier.
The lawsuit says officials from Rockingham County, the Juvenile Justice Section of the Adult Corrections Division, Department of Public Safety Juvenile Justice and Mecklenburg County were all aware of the concern via North Carolina’s online juvenile information network.
The NC JOIN is a statewide database that contains confidential information about minors’ movements, court orders, processes, program assignments, referrals, and case notes.
On the day of the 17-year-old’s death, prison staff failed to make timely “tours” of the prison wing where he was being held, according to the lawsuit. Instead, prison staff on duty falsified public records to suggest they had checked on his wellbeing at appropriate intervals when in fact they had not, the lawsuit says.
“Indeed, this lack of adequate supervision was so widespread that it was a habit – a habit known to the facility’s supervisory staff. This lack of supervision allowed [the teen] the time he needed to hang himself and face his untimely death,” the lawsuit said.
The 17-year-old girl’s mother is seeking damages for constitutional torts and damages under two federal disability rights statutes.
The lawsuit was filed against the following defendants:
- Sheriff Garry McFadden, County of Mecklenburg in his official capacity
- Dwight D. Weller, County of Mecklenburg in an individual and official capacity
- Tiffany Parker Williams, County of Mecklenburg, as an individual and official
- Akeem Dwayne Comas, County of Mecklenburg in an individual and official capacity
- Henrietta Saunders, County of Mecklenburg in her individual and official capacity
- Eddie Buffaloe, North Carolina Department of Public Safety, in an official capacity
- Charles Moore, North Carolina Department of Public Safety, as an individual
- Tammy Guess, North Carolina Department of Public Safety, as an Individual
- Kim Cowart, North Carolina Department of Public Safety, as an individual and official
- Samuel Page, County of Rockingham, in his official capacity
- Angie Webster, County of Rockingham, in her individual and official capacity
- County of Mecklenburg
- North Carolina State
- Liberty Mutual Insurance