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2 Families Plan March After Rockdale County Jail Deaths

The mothers of Shali Tilson and Jamie Henry share a hug. Tilson and Henry died in custody in Rockdale County Jail.
The mothers of Shali Tilson and Jamie Henry share a hug. Tilson and Henry died in custody in Rockdale County Jail.
Credit Lisa Hagen / WABE

The families of two people who died recently in the Rockdale County jail are calling for the removal of the jail’s commander.

Shali Tilson was found dead in a Rockdale County jail cell on March 12. A GBI autopsy says he died of blood clots in his lungs due to dehydration. It’s not clear why.

“We believe this is about neglect. About a denial of proper medical treatment,” said attorney Mawuli Davis, representing Tilson’s family.

The autopsy also says corrections officers used force on Tilson at least six times. His family says he had some history of mental illness but had been managing it with therapy. The autopsy says at one point on the day he died, video footage shows Tilson trying to climb up his cell walls.

Shali Tilson's sister, Diamond Tilson, front left, said she assumed her brother would be safe at the Rockland County jail. Tilson's mother, in sunglasses, and Jamie Henry's family are also pictured. The families are planning a June 9 march to demand an external investigation of the jail. (Lisa Hagen/WABE)
Shali Tilson’s sister, Diamond Tilson, front left, said she assumed her brother would be safe at the Rockdale County jail. Tilson’s mother, in sunglasses, and Jamie Henry’s family are also pictured. The families are planning a June 9 march to demand an external investigation of the jail. (Lisa Hagen/WABE)

Tilson’s sister, Diamond Tilson, spoke outside the jail Thursday.

“When I found out he was here, I assumed that he was going to be safe. I assumed that he was going to be well taken care of, and that’s not what happened here,” she said.

Two months after Tilson’s death, on May 27, 40-year-old Jamie Henry also died at the same facility.

Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Yolande Lovingood-Moore said medical personnel were working with Henry when she was found unresponsive.

“The medical professional that was there reached out to a doctor and they were getting some medication for her. And when they came back, that’s when it was determined that she was passed out or having the medical episode again,” Lovingood-Moore said.

Henry’s family said she had a history of addiction. The GBI is working on a toxicology report but declined Rockdale County jail’s request to investigate further.

The jail is conducting an internal investigation into Tilson’s death, but not Henry’s. Both families and their supporters say they want the jail’s commander, who is still in place, removed.

“Something is going definitely wrong with that jail. And it starts with the head,” activist Josie Dean said.

The families are planning a march on June 9 to demand an external investigation of the jail. According to the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, that would have to come from the U.S. Department of Justice.