I wrote an article about Lamar Johnson, a 27 year old man who allegedly hung himself at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on May 30, 2015 and later died on June 10, 2015. I was contacted via Facebook about the situation and so I looked into it. After reading the account of Mrs. Linda Franks the mother of Lamar Johnson I decided I would write a piece to share their story. According to Mrs. Frank her son was stopped for a minor traffic violation at which point the officer from the Baker Police Department was made aware of a warrant for arrest for Lamar. Mrs. Franks was made to believe that it was something minor and Lamar would be out in a matter of days.
Here is where the story gets tricky. According to a nola.com story written later in the day, “East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks provided a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office warrant that said Johnson was actually suspected of trying to pass a counterfeit check for $983.87. While in custody, Johnson asked to be placed in a private “lockdown” cell, Hicks said, “because other inmates were talking about him.” He was placed in a private cell, and then on May 30, four days after his arrest, he was found hanging from his bed sheet.”
I spoke with Mrs. Franks and her comments to me were plain and simple, she just wants to know what happened to her son. In reading the story from nola.com and talking to staff from the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, I am still left asking the question what happened to cause a healthy, vibrant man, as he is described by his mother to hang himself. The next question I have is how long was it before the guards realized he had done something like this if that is truly what happened and why did his mother have to reach out by doing a change.org petition asking for answers to get some light shed on her situation?
A family dealing with the loss of a loved one should have all the information necessary to ease their mind yielded over to them as soon as possible in order to help with the grieving process. Questions of foul play don’t come into mind when video footage, and incident reports are released to the family to show exactly what has happened. It shouldn’t take a family getting lawyers and contacting the media to get answers from city parish workers. In circumstances like these we as tax payers find out how much we really matter to the people whose salaries we pay.
East Baton Rouge Parish Prison is an over-crowded facility that doesn’t have enough medical staff to deal with the amount of prisoners housed there. So, I’m also left to ask the question what could’ve been done to save Lamar Johnson’ life? Was there enough medical staff on duty to give him the best treatment possible? Not to mention the closer of both Earl K. Long Hospital and the emergency room at Baton Rouge General Medical that forced EMS to drive him all the way to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. All these elements play apart in having the conversation about what really happened to Lamar Johnson. If I’m left asking all these questions, imagine what is going through the mind of those in his family who loved and cared about him.
A mother is searching for answers about the death of her son, and the main story in the media is the Miss America pageant. Our city leaders are failing to show concern for the most value resource our parish has, its people.