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Six months later: Family demanding answers after father dies in jail

Travis Banks died in the Guntersville City Jail in July 2021
WAFF's Megan Plotka spoke with family members wanting answers from the Guntersville City Jail
Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 8:01 AM CST

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - It’s been a long six months for the Banks family. Travis Banks died in the Guntersville City Jail in July 2021. Half a year later, the family still has more questions than answers.

Family members say they feel like police and officials have been avoiding them from the time Travis was arrested back in July. Now they’re suing the City of Guntersville.

Jessica Banks is Travis’s former partner and the mother of his three children. She said Travis had been arrested several times before and he always called to let them know if he was in jail. Jessica says this time there was no call from him. She didn’t even know he had been arrested.

Then, family members heard through the grapevine that he had died.

“The day that it happened we didn’t get a call from law enforcement,” said Aaron Banks, Travis’ brother. “My cousin came to my house and told me. She said she heard it from a family member. Off top it was just a lot of dysfunctional behavior going on it just wasn’t acceptable for us.”

“And we just kept calling the jail to see what was going on and they just kept telling us they can’t tell us anything,” said Jessica. “And it was just disbelief and upset. Not really knowing what to think my mind was just all over the place.”

They couldn’t get any answers for a few days until they got in contact with the Marshall County Coroner. They saw Travis’s body, but never got an autopsy report. On his death certificate, the cause of death just reads ‘pending.’

The family and their attorneys say they’ve asked repeatedly for the autopsy but never got it.

Also, they still don’t have Travis’ last arrest report. To this day, they don’t know why he got taken to jail on the night of July 29, 2021.

Their attorneys say they’ve requested video footage as well. They haven’t gotten that either.

“We don’t have an arrest report. We don’t know what kind of care was provided to him. We have all of these conflicting statements. We don’t have an autopsy we have not heard from the city or any of the authorities. We have not seen any video which we’ve asked for or any other information that we’ve requested. We have not seen anything, ” said Austin.

“If they’re not in the wrong just show us the video, show us what happened that’s all we’re asking for,” begged Jessica Banks.

WAFF's Megan Plotka spoke with family members this week

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency investigated this case. According to the attorneys, they say the ALEA case is closed which means all of the reports can now be released, but the attorneys say they still haven’t received anything.

“In my experience with ALEA they work with us and they have in the past but in this case, at least as of today they have not been forthcoming with anything on this case,” said family attorney Johnathon F. Austin.

Now, they’re suing the city of Guntersville citing inadequate medical care, deprivation of life, supervisory liability, negligent supervision/training and municipal liability. Austin says they pursued a lawsuit because anyone that’s arrested or imprisoned is still entitled to their rights.

“Just because you’ve been arrested doesn’t make you less than human. You may or may not have done something wrong but your rights are not suspended.”

Jessica says this whole situation was been terrible since day one. “The day I had to come home and tell them (her children) it’s been horrible ever since. They don’t know what to understand all they know is that daddy’s not coming home. And he’s not here and they don’t know what happened,” said Jessica Banks. “They have nightmares now, they have really bad dreams, they get scared to go to school, they get scared to be away from me because they’re afraid something’s going to happen.”

ALEA, The Guntersville Police Department and Marshall County Coroner did not respond to requests for comment. The Guntersville Mayor said that she can’t comment on pending litigation.

When it comes to the family they say they just want answers. They’re holding a vigil for Travis Banks on Saturday, Jan. 29 at 1 p.m.

WAFF's Megan Plotka reporting

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