Believing Scott had ingested drugs, the guards claimed they were concerned for Scott’s safety. In the current climate of questionable and oftentimes illegal policing practices, the guards expressed their so-called concern for the 26-year-old’s well-being by forcibly restraining him in a bed, pepper-spraying him at least once, and then placing a spit mask over his face.
At 10:22 pm, roughly four hours after being arrested for a minor drug possession charge, Scott became unresponsive and was pronounced dead at the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center.
In response to Scott’s tragic death, Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner launched an internal review of the sheriff office’s policies and procedures. “The death of this young man is a painful tragedy, and we have an obligation to uncover the full and complete truth,” Sheriff Skinner said at a press conference the day after Scott’s death.
Because Texas law mandates that an independent law enforcement agency must investigate in-custody deaths, the Texas Rangers also opened a separate criminal investigation.
Although the Texas Rangers have declined to divulge details about their ongoing investigation, Sheriff Skinner vowed that his office’s internal affairs investigation would be “thorough and transparent.” So far, seven jail officers—a captain, a lieutenant, two sergeants, and three other officers—have been fired, with an eighth resigning.
Sheriff Skinner acknowledged that the evidence “confirms that these detention officers violated well-established Sheriff Office policies and procedures.”
However, Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney representing Scott’s family, criticized the sheriff’s investigation as anything but thorough and transparent. Merritt noted that the Sheriff Office not only refused to release the identities of the guards involved, but also failed to notify, or even invite, Scott’s family and attorney to Sheriff Skinner’s press conference.
Tellingly, Scott’s mother was contacted hours after her son’s death by the medical examiner’s office—and not by telephone either, but with a brief, impersonal text message.
Scott, a schizophrenic, suffered a mental health episode the night of his arrest. Merritt, who also represented Darius Tarver, a University of North Texas student slain by Denton TX police in 2020, contends the officers should have known about Scott’s mental health condition. Scott had been arrested previously on several occasions, so he was known to the Sheriff’s Office; moreover, on those prior arrests, Scott was sent to a behavioral center instead of jail. But not this time.
The civil rights attorney stressed that the arresting officers and Collin County Detention guards were supposed to take certain precautions with someone known to have mental health issues. But Merritt said they “were not taken here, and they’re often not, and it results in unnecessary death.”
All the officers had to do, according to Merritt, was pull up Scott’s prior arrest records, which would have informed them of Scott’s schizophrenia diagnosis and past mental health crises. Scott’s death could have been averted, literally, with a few keystrokes.
Despite Sheriff Skinner’s assurances, no details about the Sheriff Office’s investigation into Scott’s death have been released at this time. No lawsuit has been filed as this issue of PLN goes to press.
Sources: cnn.com, dallasnews.com
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