Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Family Says Guard Ignored Brieon Green Committing Suicide at Jail

Family horrified after reviewing footage of his death in custody at Milwaukee County Jail.

By - Dec 4th, 2022 03:10 pm
Milwaukee County Jail and Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee County Jail and Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The family of Brieon Green and their attorneys announced during a press conference Thursday that footage of his death in the Milwaukee County Jail shows the 21-year-old committed suicide with a telephone cord in June this year, and that a correctional officer working in the jail walked past him as he did it.

Green died on June 26, and his family and community groups have been calling for the footage from the jail to be publicly released ever since. On Thursday, they were finally able to view the footage after the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office turned over the investigation to the Milwaukee County District Attorney.

“One of the most disturbing aspects of what we witnessed today, is that this incident was completely preventable,” said the family’s attorney, B’Ivory LaMarr,

LaMarr said Green has a history of mental illness, and that the Milwaukee sheriff’s department should have known this because Green had suffered from suicidal ideation during previous times he was in custody at the jail.  Approximately 28 minutes after Green was booked into the jail he committed suicide by strangling himself with a telephone cord.

We saw an officer go by Brieon Green’s cell during the course of him taking his life,” LaMarr said. “Brieon Green had a phone cord, literally strangling himself with a phone cord while the sheriff officer goes directly past the cell while he was supposed to be conducting a cell check.”

LaMarr said the corrections officer was supposed to be conducting a wellness check. “They completely failed to follow the protocols and adhere to the standard operating procedures,” he said.

LaMarr said the family continues to call for the public release of the footage, and for all the investigative materials from the Waukesha sheriff’s office to be turned over to the family and their attorneys.

I could not believe my eyes,” LaMarr said. “I could not believe there was gross negligence with a complete indifference to a human life that took place at this facility on June 26 of this year.”

Green’s Aunt, Monique Brewer, said he was locked in the cell by himself with an inoperable phone while a group of other inmates were in a nearby common area with phone access.

“This is the day we’ve been waiting for, and we just wanted to know what happened,” Brewer said. “And in the midst of this happening, it could have been prevented. Somebody was standing right outside the door. Right outside the door; didn’t even look at him.”

A community activist group, the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, has worked with the family and another group called the Justice for Brieon Green Coalition to demand transparency and the release of all information related to his death. A spokesperson, Alan Chavoya, said a second correctional officer discovered Green’s body 37 minutes after the first officer walked by as he strangled himself. Once discovered, Chavoya said the video showed the area swarmed with correctional officers. “So this isn’t a staffing issue,” Chavoya said. “They’re not doing their job.”

The Milwaukee County Jail has been facing the twin crises of a staffing shortage and overcrowding for much of 2022. In March, Jail Commander Inspector Aaron Dobson told the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors the facility was staffed at approximately 50% of what it was budgeted for. In a recent interview with the Shepherd Express, Dobson said that a single correction officer could be in charge of a housing unit with up to 64 occupants.

The conditions at the jail were a major issue during the primary election for Milwaukee County Sheriff. Every candidate that agreed to an interview with Urban Milwaukee said the staffing levels were a problem and were leading to worsening conditions in the facility. Inspector Brian Barkow, commander of the Investigative Services Bureau, began his career in the jail and said the current conditions there are “appalling.”

Another candidate, Lieutenant Mohamed Awad, who works in the jail, described being by himself in a booking room with 20 people in jail custody in an August interview with Urban Milwaukee. “It’s unsafe for the individuals, occupants in our care and the people working there,” he said. “I am happy that it hasn’t been any more unfortunate situations where there was deaths, but it’s set up almost every day for something bad to happen because of such bad staffing levels.”

Awad said the agency’s struggle to maintain staffing in the jail is putting new recruits in situations they shouldn’t be in. “They’re rushed through training, so they feel ill-equipped, they haven’t been trained properly,” Awad said. “And then they’re expected to do the job of two and three people.”

Awad said he told then Chief Deputy and current Milwaukee County Sheriff Denita Ball and Chief Legal Compliance Officer Molly Zillig in a meeting that the training practices for new officers needed to be evaluated. “And that day is when an individual was able to take their life. And it was in a housing unit where it was brand new officers. And then it was sent out that no brand new officers can work within those housing units until they’ve been fully kind of trained,” Awad said. “I’ve been seeing this coming.”

Awad could not be reached for comment Friday by Urban Milwaukee.

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