Mother pleads for answers after son found dead in jail cell at 201 Poplar

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A family has questions after an inmate is found dead inside his cell at 201 Poplar.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said jail staff found 32-year-old Tommy Young unresponsive around 9 p.m. Saturday.

SCSO told us the preliminary information suggests his death was a suicide.

FOX13’s Winnie Wright spoke to his family that said they don’t believe Young killed himself.

Angela Stokes told us a mother knows, and she said she knows her son did not commit suicide.

“I don’t believe my son killed himself,” Stokes said. “I believe the guy in the cell or somebody else down there killed my son and they tried to make it seem like he committed suicide.”

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Stokes is adamant that her son did not kill himself over the weekend.

“Would he have committed suicide then, when he’s only got 3 weeks until he comes home,” Stokes said. “Ain’t no way. I can’t see it.”

Young, she said, was developmentally delayed.

His mind, she said, was that of a 12-year-old.

Only standing about 4’10″, she said Young was always getting in to fights to defend himself because of his height.

“Somebody dropped the ball,” she said. “He should have never been in 201 no way.”

Young served 17 of his 32 years in prison.

That’s why, Stokes told us, she doesn’t have any recent photos of her son. Just old ones of him growing up.

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He just got out after serving 5 years, when he was arrested on an warrant for assault.

According to court records in 2017, while at the Shelby County Penal Farm, Young threw feces in the face of a corrections officer.

He was at 201 on a $100 bond.

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“Where were the guards,” she said. “What were they doing? He was on the second floor. That’s the mental floor. Why isn’t someone watching these people?”

Josh Spickler is Executive Director of Just City, a Memphis non-profit that helps grant bail money to people charged with crimes and expunge criminal records

He, too, agrees Young shouldn’t have been held at 201 awaiting trial on a misdemeanor charge.

“This says a very specific thing: it says, we don’t believe you’re a risk of flight," Spickler said. "WE don’t believe you’re a risk hardly at all. But what it does, is it keeps people without resources, people living in poverty in that jail.”

We have asked SCSO if Young indicated he was suicidal to correctional officers, why psych patients would be held at 201 and not at Lakeside, and whether they have any video showing correctional officers making regular rounds around Young’s cell.

There are also cameras inside 201 Poplar.

We have requested any video that may have captured what happened to Young

His death comes on the heel of multiple inmates dying at prisons across Mississippi.