BURKBURNETT, Tx (RNN Texoma) - On Wednesday afternoon depositions began in a civil lawsuit between a Wichita Falls woman and a Burkburnett Police officer and the city of Burkburnett.
Shelly Parham is suing the arresting officer, Daniel Elbaum, and the city after her son Marcus Johnson was found hanged in a Burkburnett holding cell in March of 2016.
She is seeking monetary reparations for her loss and suing for 'punitive damages.'
Court documents show Johnson was arrested for having a fake Texas identification card. Johnson told Officer Elbaum he was bipolar, suffered from depression and attempted to commit suicide three times. Parham said the last time Johnson attempted to commit suicide was three weeks prior to his arrest.
"He had his struggle besides being a little slow," Parham said. "He had struggles but he was overcoming them."
"He should have never been allowed to go into that cell with those mental health issues with pants that have a drawstring which he can hang himself," Dean Malone, Parham's attorney said.
"We commonly see lawsuits rising out of jail suicides and essentially the claim is that the officers involved didn't prevent the man from committing suicide," Joe Tooley, Officer Elbaum's attorney said.
Burkburnett Police Department conducted an internal investigation after the incident and suspended Officer Elbaum for one day. The results showed Officer Elbaum failed to monitor Johnson in accordance with Burkburnett PD operating guidelines.
"We feel like our defense is meritorious and we're defending it in court under the rules and law," Tooley said.
Johnson would have been 24 the day after Christmas.
"He's been gone 22 months. I thought it would get easier," Parham said.
Johnson leaves behind a son, Marcus Johnson, Jr. who was born two months after he died.
Burkburnett City Manager Mike Whaley said the new holding cell inside the city's new Justice Center, that opens around July of next year, will have fail-safe upgrades to prevent suicide attempts such as breakaway plumbing and slick surfaces.