Federal lawsuit filed in death of Lason Butler, who died of dehydration in a South Carolina jail

·2 min read

Butler, 27, died after nearly two weeks in jail following his arrest for misdemeanor traffic violations.

A lawsuit has been filed in federal court naming seven defendants and alleging that they caused the death of Lason Butler, who died at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Richland County, South Carolina, of dehydration. His body was covered in rat bites.

The lawsuit in South Carolina District Court, according to The State, claims that Butler was denied food, water and medical care while he was detained in the “Special Housing Unit” of the jail. Among the defendants are Richard County and Shane Kitchen, who was in charge of the jail at the time Butler was held there for misdemeanor traffic violations.

“We’re going to take this all the way to the federal courthouse steps,” said attorney Bakari Sellers (right), who is representing the family of Robert Langley. (Grace Beahm Alford/The Post And Courier via AP)
“We’re going to take this all the way to the federal courthouse steps,” said attorney Bakari Sellers (right), who is representing the family of Robert Langley. (Grace Beahm Alford/The Post And Courier via AP)

The plaintiffs are represented by civil rights attorneys Bakari Sellers and Audia Jones. Sellers, a former state representative, has characterized the staff’s behavior toward Butler as “deliberate indifference,” which he called, “the two most important words in this case.”

Added Sellers:  “We’re going to take this all the way to the federal courthouse steps.”

The 27-year-old Butler was found dead in his cell nearly two weeks after his arrest for failure to stop for police, reckless driving as well as driving with a suspended license. The State reported earlier this year, that Butler had a heart condition but his official cause of death was “complications of acute dehydration.”

“But for (the jail staff’s) lack of action, (Butler) would be alive,” said Richland County Coroner Naida Rutherford, The State reported this week.

Butler is among three inmates who have died at the Glenn Detention Center in 2022. Another lawsuit in federal court alleges that the prison has a pattern of abusing people with disabilities, including those with mental health issues. Butler was having a mental health episode at the time of his arrest.

Calls by theGrio to the Glenn Detention Center for comment were not returned.

Butler’s death has been declared a homicide, but charges have yet to be filed.

“This is one of the worst cases of murder I’ve ever seen,” said Jones, a former prosecutor in Houston, according to The State this week.

As for the potential for damages, Sellers noted, “We don’t know how much a Black man’s life is worth, but we’re going to find out.”

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