Seven Guards Fired Over Collins County Texas Jail Death
by Jayson Hawkins
Marvin David Scott III was far from what most people would consider a criminal. The 26-year-old played football in high school, made straight As, and was described by friends and family as “generous to everyone around him.”
It is doubtful that police in Allen, Texas, a suburb or Dallas, knew anything about Scott when they arrested him on March 14, 2021 for a single marijuana joint. It turned into a death sentence.
Guards at the Collin County Detention Facility likely did not know about Scott’s history of mental illness when they strapped him to a restraint bed, pepper sprayed him, and put a spit hood over his head. Roughly four hours after entering the jail, Scott was dead. [PLN, Aug. 2021, p. 54]
Ensuing investigations by the Collin County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Rangers led to the firing of seven guards and the resignation of an eighth.
“Evidence I have seen confirms that these detention officers violated well-established Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures,” said Sheriff Jim Skinner, although no details were provided as to what violations occurred.
In October 2021, the sheriff released a 41-minute video of the incident. It shows guards moving Scott, who is struggling, into a room and putting him in a restraint bed. He is seen in the video strapped down for about 18 minutes with the spit hood on, moving occasionally. When guards pulled the hood off, he was unresponsive. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The Collin County Medical Examiner ruled that Scott’s death was the result of a “fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint and struggle.”
A grand jury in June, 2021, cleared eight of the guards involved, even after watching the video. The guards who faced charges for Scott’s death were: Andres Cardenas, Alec Difatta, Blaise Mikulewicz, Rafael Paradez, Justin Patrick, James Schoelen, Christopher Windsor and Austin Wong.
Scott’s death, made more tragic by how easily it could have been prevented, takes place amid a national debate over police reform. The circumstances of Scott’s arrest, which followed a disturbance call where police observed him “acting in an erratic manner,” point to a situation more appropriate for mental health professionals than cops, and the violent actions of the jail guards after Scott exhibited “some strange behavior” illustrate how mental health crises are often handled behind bars.
The grand jury released a statement urging that such crises be treated better. They recommended the formation of a group consisting of a “diverse group of Collin County community leaders, criminal justice and law enforcement stakeholders, local hospitals, and mental health providers.” The goal of the group should be to find the “best solutions for the treatment of individuals with mental illness who come in contact with the criminal justice system.”
District Attorney Greg Willis said in a press release he would be heading up the formation of a mental health working group, “I too share the Grand Jury’s concern for the treatment of individuals suffering from mental illness, and I pledge to honor Mr. Scott by taking the lead in assembling the work group to look for lessons learned so that his tragic in-custody death will not have been in vain.”
The Scott family is being represented by civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who in July announced he is running for Texas attorney general as a Democrat. Merritt wrote about the Scott case on Twitter: “The failure of prosecutors to secure indictments in this matter reflects a trend in Texas of undervaluing the lives of African American’s [sic] suffering mental health crisis.” As this issue of PLN goes to press, no lawsuit has been filed over Scott’s death at the hands of jail guards.
Source: cnn.com, dailymail.co.uk