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Texas Jail Guard Indicted in Fatal Shooting of Shackled Detainee

by Chuck Sharman

On April 7, 2023, a Texas grand jury indicted a guard at the Hays County Jail for shooting a shackled detainee in the back and killing him. Isaiah Garcia, 27, was charged with felony deadly conduct in the December 2022 death of Joshua Leon Wright, 36.

The office of Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler said that Wright had been taken for treatment to Ascension Seton Hays Hospital in Kyle on December 12, 2022, when he allegedly attempted to escape. But the details of what happened are in dispute.

A tweet from the head of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), the union representing jailers, initially claimed Wright “grabbed” some medical instruments and threatened hospital staffers, before Garcia intervened and killed him. But the following day, CLEAT Executive Director Charley Wilkison deleted that tweet and substituted a new one, claiming Wright didn’t “grab” but merely “moved toward” the dangerous instruments, raising doubts how that threatened hospital staff.

San Marcos attorney E. Chevo Pastrano appeared with Wright’s family at a vigil on January 2, 2023, to demand release of video footage of the incident, claiming the detainee’s legs were shackled when he hobbled toward the exit and Garcia gunned him down. An independent autopsy conducted for the family found six bullet wounds in Wright’s corpse, Pastrano said.

He was joined at the vigil by nationally famous civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who also called for release of the video footage and described the way the dead man appeared in the footage: “He’s got shackles. His pants are falling down. He’s 300 pounds, moving away and this police officer says, ‘the only thing I can do is shoot him multiple times in the back.’”

County Criminal District Attorney Kelly Higgins presented the case to the grand jury, which considered evidence that included results of an investigation into the shooting by the Texas Rangers, who examined footage from Garcia’s body-worn camera. County Judge Ruben Becerra called for release of the video by December 22, 2022. But the county has so far refused, citing the open investigation.

Wright had been jailed for bail-jumping, carjacking, reckless driving, criminal mischief and evading arrest.

Garcia returned to work 10 days after the shooting, but he is no longer employed since surrendering after the indictment, according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office. He posted a $20,000 bond and was released. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. See: Texas v. Garcia, Tex. Dist. (Dallas Cty.), Case No. *******9868.

Additional sources: Austin America-Statesman, KSAT, KXAN

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