Eighty-Three Questions About the Death of De’Sohn Wilson: An Ongoing Investigation

Catina Bacote

Who called Mirrellez C. Elliott and told her that her son had died in police custody?

How many minutes did it take for the police to drive De’Sohn from where he was arrested in New Haven to the police station at One Union Avenue? Did someone take his fingerprints and mugshot? Who emptied his pockets? When would he have been able to make a phone call? Who would he have called? What happened between 2:00 a.m. when he was arrested and 2:45 a.m. when he was found unconscious in a detention cell? Who entered his cell, and why? At what time did a doctor pronounce him dead? How did De’Sohn Wilson die?

Did he live in New Haven all his life? Did he ever sit on the grass on the Green? Before he went to Hillhouse High School, did he go to Lincoln-Basset or Conte Middle School or somewhere else? Did he ever run around at East Rock or Edgewood Park? Did he notice the courthouses and churches and the old Chapel Square Mall when he was downtown? Did he hang out often at 50 Fitch? Was he at the club the one and only night I went there to party? Did he ever watch sports on the big screens at Buffalo Wild Wings? Did he ever wear a new outfit and sneakers to the Freddie Fixer parade? Did he like to dance or remember his dreams?

Did his mother call him “family-oriented” in front of the police station because of how he looked after her or how he took care of his son or both? Did he tell his mother he loved her the last time he saw her? What will his six-year-old son De’Sohn Jr. remember about him? Will he be able to hold onto the way his father smelled or the sound of his voice?

What happened on April 15, 2020, when De’Sohn was arrested for a “domestic dispute?” Who at the scene felt threatened?  Was there a scuffle, an exchange of hateful words, a hit or kick, or a scream? Was anyone tired? Was anyone calm? Was anyone angry or frightened or frustrated or sad or hostile or broken or careless or cruel?

How long did it take De’Sohn to die? Where is his body right now? Where will it be tomorrow?

Who were the arresting officers, and what are their records? Who else was at the police station? In the forty-five minutes that De’Sohn was in custody, how many minutes was he alone? What did the medical personnel called to the scene see? Where are the cameras in the station? When New Haven Police Department officers stood outside to show their disapproval of George Floyd’s murder, did any of them think about De’Sohn since he was Black and male and his death was still an ongoing investigation?

How often did De’Sohn and my XXXX work the same shift at Sonic? Who was faster on the grill when orders for burgers, chicken, and fries came in one after another? Who saw them when they went out back to smoke together? What did they think about while they waited for their shift to end? Did anyone notice them in the evenings walking to the bus stop side by side? How long did it take for them to get “tight?” When they talked about their children, what made them laugh?

I wonder if both De’Sohn and my XXXX nodded their heads in the same way when they played rap on their phones? If they kept anything besides letters and cards from their time in prison? If they listened more than they talked for the same reason? Had they both been stopped by the police while walking down the street in New Haven? Had they both had a police gun pointed in their face? Had they both been taunted by an officer for being afraid?

Will any of my questions put my XXXX in harm’s way?

Who is the Chief Medical Examiner whose preliminary finding ruled De’Sohn’s death a suicide? Did the examiner go beyond a routine autopsy and dissect his neck, back, and face? Was there a close inspection of his spine and scrotum? What evidence of suicide did the examiner find? Is it the same evidence—marks around the neck—found in the death of Sandra Bland?

What would De’Sohn have said if my XXXX had told him about his twenty-one-year-old uncle who was found dead in a New Haven jail cell in 1973? What would he have said if he knew the death had been ruled a suicide, that the family hired a lawyer to uncover the truth, and that they lost the case?

What was the first step in the internal police investigation into the death of De’Sohn Wilson? Who knows besides the police? Has a NHPD officer ever been found responsible for the death of someone? Do the documents from an internal police investigation ever become public record? What does it mean to trust the police to reveal the truth? When De’Sohn Jr. grows up, what will he believe about his father’s death?

Who noticed that De’Sohn was always smiling and gave him the nickname Chees (pronounced Cheese)? Why did he wear chains with crosses on them? What did he like most about the comedy skit exposing police racial profiling posted on his Facebook page? What was his favorite song of all time? What did he do last year to celebrate his thirtieth birthday?

Why did Mirrellez C. Elliott and local clergy have to hold a press conference outside the police station two weeks after De’Sohn’s death to demand answers? Why is the FOX61 video of the press conference shorter than the one that originally aired? Why doesn’t the edited video include anything about De’Sohn’s smile or his son? Why does the newly edited video end with a member of the clergy saying, “Whether he hung himself or not or whatever the case may be…?” What happened when the police and the State’s Attorney’s office sat down together to review the investigative material? Where will the two lawyers representing the family begin?

Who will know that De’Sohn Wilson died in police custody? 

Why doesn’t the United States government keep a comprehensive and accurate record of those who lose their life while being apprehended, arrested, or detained by the police? When will the Department of Justice begin to enforce the Death in Custody Reporting Act passed by Congress in 2013? How many sons and daughters, fathers and mothers have met their end without a cell phone video or convenience store camera to capture their death? Who were they? How did they die?