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John Basco: Oklahoma inmate who sued county for forcing him to listen to 'Baby Shark' on loop found dead in jail

Basco, who had been booked into jail over a drug trafficking complaint, made headlines around the world in 2021 after he and three other inmates sued Oklahoma County
John Basco had accused his jailers of 'torture' for forcing him to listen to the repetitive pop song 'Baby Shark' repeatedly while handcuffing him (Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office)
John Basco had accused his jailers of 'torture' for forcing him to listen to the repetitive pop song 'Baby Shark' repeatedly while handcuffing him (Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office)

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA: In a 2019 lawsuit filed against the county, an Oklahoma County inmate who was found dead in his cell over the weekend alleged that jail staff tortured him and other inmates by making them listen to the children's song 'Baby Shark' continuously for hours. Officials from the Oklahoma County Detention Center reported that 48-year-old John Basco was discovered unconscious in his cell early on the morning of September 10. Following the start of life-saving measures, jail staff reported that he had been pronounced dead.

Mark Opgrande, a spokesman for the jail, said there were no obvious signs of foul play and that investigators will look into the likelihood of a drug overdose. The cause of death will be determined by the state medical examiner. Basco, who was booked into the jail on September 7 on drug trafficking charges, was among a group of inmates who filed a federal lawsuit against the county for allegedly being shackled to a wall and forced to listen to the song 'Baby Shark' for hours at various events in 2019. In connection with the incidents, a jail lieutenant was retired and two correctional officers were fired as all three were facing misdemeanor charges.


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The circumstances surrounding Basco's death, according to Basco's lawyer Cameron Spradling, are "disturbing," and he has appealed for the preservation of all evidence while the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation investigation into it progresses. “I'm really bothered by this,” Spradling said. “One of the Baby Shark victims is conveniently dead within three days of his arrival at the jail. How does that happen? District Attorney David Prater just lost one of his witnesses for the upcoming criminal trial. For me, this one does not pass the smell test.”

Basco has a long history of criminal convictions in Oklahoma County extending back to the mid-1990s, largely for drug, property, and weapons charges, as per Oklahoma jail archives. According to records, he was convicted of second-degree murder in 2000 and given a 10-year jail sentence. Later, he was eventually let go in 2007.

Daniel Hendrick, Joseph Mitchell, and John Basco claimed in the Baby Shark lawsuit that they were taken from their cells at the Oklahoma County Detention Center by two officers, placed in a “standing stress position” with their arms handcuffed behind their backs, and then forced to listen to the popular children's song on repeat for hours. Christian Charles Miles and Gregory Cornell Butler Jr the two police officers involved, were described as "wanton, depraved, and sadistic" in the lawsuit, which labeled the behavior "tantamount to torture." It used the Baby Shark song by Pinkfong, which went viral in 2019, as an example of how the behavior was similar to the heavy metal music played at Guantanamo Bay as part of an "enhanced interrogation" strategy to break the willpower of Iraqi prisoners.