Texas Grand Jury Indicts Two Jailers in Prisoner’s Death; Others Face Discipline
On November 23, 2015, a grand jury in Tarrant County, Texas returned an indictment against two Arlington Police Department detention officers for one count each of criminally negligent homicide.
Pedro Medina, 33, and Steve Schmidt, 57, were working at the Arlington jail on March 20, 2015 when prisoner Jonathan Ryan Paul, 42, became disruptive. Paul was pepper sprayed and forcibly removed from his cell, then began to struggle while handcuffed and was restrained by up to four guards.
A 911 call was placed and paramedics arrived on the scene. Paul had no pulse but was revived and transported to Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. He was placed in the intensive care unit with kidney injuries, respiratory failure, liver failure and a temperature of more than 103. His family made the decision to remove him from life support three days later.
An autopsy report issued by the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office found that physical restraints and the use of pepper spray had played a “significant role” in Paul’s in-custody death, though the cause of death was undetermined.
Prior to the indictment, Medina had been placed on administrative leave without pay and Schmidt retired in October 2015. Paul’s family filed a federal lawsuit against the city, alleging that jail employees were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs and denied him care when they became aware he was in distress. That case remains pending.
Two other Arlington jailers, Wes Allen and Matt Fisher, face termination in connection with Paul’s death, while Sgt. Frank Vacante faces a five-day suspension for failing to adequately supervise other jail staff.
Sources: www.star-telegram.com, www.abc13.com
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