• Family demands answers after 22-year-old dies in jail

    By: Sophia Choi

    Updated:

    ROCKDALE COUNTY, Ga. - The family of a 22-year-old man who died in the Rockdale County Jail wants answers.

    Conyers police arrested Shali Tilson for two misdemeanors on March 3.

    Just nine days later, he was dead.

    “This is heartbreaking for my family and I,” said Tilson’s mother, Tynesha.

    The family and their attorney met with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations on Monday, in hopes of learning what went so wrong.

    Attorney Mawuli Davis told Channel 2’s Sophia Choi that the GBI told them Shali was isolated on suicide watch.


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    They also learned he had blood clots and was severely dehydrated.

    “We don’t know if water was withheld from him," Davis said. "But we would think that if an individual is in a cell by himself, and is under such duress that you would put him in a cell by himself, and that you’re supposed to check on him every 15 minutes. How would he be so severely dehydrated if in fact that was being done?”

    Rockdale County’s Sheriff Eric Levett also attended the GBI meeting with the Tilson family.

    Levett said a GBI autopsy showed Tilson died from natural causes, but he would not go into detail.

    The GBI also did not elaborate, saying the investigation is still ongoing.

    “There’s a lot still to be determined. Just because we received those results from the medical examiner, that we are comfortable with what we learned today,” Levett said.

    The GBI investigation could be finished by week’s end. The family wants a criminal investigation and are now considering a civil suit.

    His family said Shali had a bright future. He was going to school to become a paralegal and worked for the Rhode Island State House at one time.

    He also started a black empowerment program called Urban Perspective.

    Shali’s family buried him in Rhode Island last week. His mother flew back to Georgia on Mother’s Day and says she plans to move to Rhode Island after the GBI investigation into her son’s death is complete.

    “We don’t feel safe here anymore. If our son died in the jail full of people, do you think we feel safe on the outside?” Tilson said. 

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