BECKLEY, WV (WVNS)– The family of a Beckley man who died on March 1, 2022, at Southern Regional Jail said they will continue to push state and federal officials for answers.
Quantez “Quan” Burks, 37, was arrested by officers from Beckley Police Department on February 28, 2022, on charges of wanton endangerment and obstructing an officer, after he allegedly discharged a firearm at his Woodlawn Avenue home during an argument around 2 p.m and taken to Southern Regional Jail.
He died on March 1, 2022, while in custody. His family, who are represented by renowned civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, said a private autopsy showed Burks had blunt force trauma wounds throughout his body when he died and that he died of a heart attack.
The family alleges the heart attack was brought on by a beating at the jail, which is currently under a federal investigation.
Kimberly Burks, Quan’s mother, said the family will not allow state officials to “sweep it under the rug.”
“You don’t have a lot of people that has the support, that my family has, and the support we’re going to give Quan,” Burks said. “We’re going to get that justice for my son. They don’t check, or they let it slide, or they sweep it under the rug. Not happening.
“From the top to the bottom, we’re going to get to the top of it, and to the bottom of it,” she added. “And they will be held responsible. I will never let it go. Never.”
A string of unexplained deaths has occurred at Southern Regional Jail over the last two years, prompting family members to petition Gov. Jim Justice, the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security, and federal officials for answers.
Four attorneys have also filed a lawsuit against Southern Regional Jail in United States District Court for Southern West Virginia, alleging inmates were denied food and water, medical care, clothing, and mental health services.
Stephen New, one of the attorneys, alleges PrimeCare Medical of West Virginia falsified medical reports to cover up beatings of prisoners in the medical pod, where there are no cameras.
West Virginia Department of Homeland Security Deputy Counsel Morgan Switzer declined on Monday, November 14, 2022, to respond to questions raised by the family.
“The death of Quantez Burkes is still under investigation,” Switzer stated in an email to 59 News. “WV DHS has been cooperating with law enforcement during this investigation and will not make any statements to ensure the investigation’s integrity.”
State Department of Homeland Security conducted its own investigation at Southern Regional in April, at the direction of Gov. Jim Justice, and found no serious violations at the jail.
The family said on November 6, 2022, that the jail initially gave conflicting reports about the time and day Quan died.
His fiancee of 22 years, Latasha Williams, said Burks was not taken to Raleigh County Magistrate Court for arraignment on February 28, 2022, the day he was arrested. She said a magistrate’s clerk told her around 5:30 p.m. he was intoxicated and taken straight to the jail.
Williams said she spoke with Quan around 9 A.M. on March 1. She called the jail again that day at 1 P.M. to ask about posting bond.
Over the phone, she said, a jail worker told her Quan had died.
“I called to get his bond. Whoever answered the phone snickered and said, ‘Oh, he passed away last night at nine o’clock of cardiac arrest,'” Williams recalled the conversation. “I threw the phone. Me and his mom, we’re freaking out.”
Williams said she then had a moment of hope that Quan was still alive.
“Then I stopped, like, ‘No, he ain’t. I just talked to him (at) nine o’clock this morning,'” she explained. “I called back and (jail staff said) ‘Oh my bad, my apologies, it was this morning.’”
The family said the conflicting reports surrounding Quan’s day and time of death have raised questions for them. They allege jail staff also placed an older mugshot of Quan on the jail website.
Although state officials have not provided the family with a copy of Quan’s autopsy report, they said, state officials notified them Quan died of “natural causes.”
The family said they have “zero” trust in an autopsy influenced by Southern Regional Jail.
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources stated to 59News that when an inmate dies, the jail provides information to help the West Virginia Chief Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the manner of death, which is natural, suicide, homicide, or undetermined.
Medical records, including medical records provided by Southern Regional Jail, are also used when determining the cause of death.
Quan’s daughter, Kiara Cooper, of Ohio, said her father had been overjoyed when he found out she was pregnant in 2020 and that he loved being a grandfather to her son, who is now almost two years old.
She said that Quan had been looking forward to the birth of Cooper’s daughter, who was due later in March.
“He only got to enjoy being a grandfather for a year,” said Cooper, an Ohio State University student. “He was so excited to meet my daughter. Didn’t get to.”