On December 8, 2016, Elderick Brass, a former Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) lieutenant, was indicted for misuse of official information for leaking a video that showed tear gas being deployed against prisoners at the Pam Lynchner State Jail in May 2015.
The TDCJ admitted that the video showed Lt. Cody Waller improperly firing a tear gas round inside the jail dormitory that was designed for outside use. Sparks flew as the round, which is a little larger than a stick of butter, hit a prisoner in the chest – a target it should never have been aimed at. According to the TDCJ, an indoor round should have been fired at the floor or a wall and not aimed directly at a prisoner from a few feet away. The prisoner hit by the tear gas round was hospitalized.
Brass, who was not on duty when the incident occurred, had previously spoken out against deployment of a tear gas gun in nonviolent situations. The video showed two groups of prisoners, one black and one Hispanic. The Hispanic prisoners refused to report to their bunks so the lights could be turned out, apparently because they were afraid that the blacks, some of whom were heard threatening “We’ll whoop you,” were going to attack them after lights out. Guards did not attempt to stop the threats. The prisoners obeyed orders to move away from the door and were not threatening the guards when the tear gas round was fired.
“It wasn’t warranted,” said Brass. “You clearly see the offenders are not being aggressive; they’re not cursing at staff, they’re not doing any of that. You have right and you have wrong, and this is definitely wrong.”
Although the TDCJ acknowledged errors in the firing of the tear gas gun, it did not admit that deployment of the round was unwarranted. Waller was initially placed on employment probation but not fired.
Brass’ attorney asked Kim Ogg, the newly-elected Harris County District Attorney, to dismiss the charges, saying they were clearly “retaliation by TDCJ” for the release of the video.
According to a January 2017 news report, Brass faced two to 10 years in prison if convicted of giving the video to a local TV station. He pleaded guilty on April 11, 2017 and entered into a one-year pre-trial intervention agreement that included 50 hours of community service.
Sources: www.abcl3.com, TDCJ statement, www.fringenews.com, Harris County District Court
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