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11 jailers fired for beating, stripping a detainee who died during Texas winter storm

11 jailers fired for beating, stripping a detainee who died during Texas winter storm

May 28, 2021
Click here to view original web page at www.msn.com

Eleven jail employees have been fired and several others suspended following the death of a detainee who was stripped naked and beaten during the severe winter storm in Texas, the Harris County sheriff announced Friday. Jaquaree Simmons, 23, died in February from blunt force trauma to the head and […]

Click here to view original web page at www.msn.com


Eleven jail employees have been fired and several others suspended following the death of a detainee who was stripped naked and beaten during the severe winter storm in Texas, the Harris County sheriff announced Friday.

a building with a metal fence: Guards watch over a single cell area in an acute unit at Harris County Jail in 2014.

Jaquaree Simmons, 23, died in February from blunt force trauma to the head and a brain bleed the day after he was beaten by jail workers out of view from security cameras, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said. Three months after Simmons’s death, investigators said they concluded detention officers committed serious policy violations, including using excessive force, failing to document the use of force, failing to intervene and making false statements during the course of the investigation. The jail workers, 11 who were terminated and six suspended without pay, may also face criminal charges, said the sheriff, adding that the workers betrayed his and the community’s trust.

“They escalated, rather than de-escalated, the situation,” Gonzalez said of the employees. “Their conduct was unacceptable and inexcusable, and has discredited them, the Sheriff’s Office, and their fellow employees. None of them deserve to wear the Harris County Sheriff’s Office patch ever again.”

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Gonzalez emphasized that the force used against Simmons was done out of view of the 1,490 security cameras operating inside the 1.4-million-square-foot jail complex, making the investigation “especially difficult.”

Gonzalez said he felt “very upset and heartbroken” in the wake of the findings, stressing the agency’s efforts to hold those responsible for Simmons’s death accountable. Amid a national reckoning about police use of force, Gonzalez underscored that officers’ misbehavior would not be tolerated by the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office identified the terminated employees as Detention Officers Garland Barrett, Patricia Brummett, Joshua Dixon, Alysheia Mallety, Israel Martinez, Eric Morales, Alfredo Rodriguez, Daniel Rodriguez, Chadwick Westmoreland, Detention Sgt. Jacob Ramirez and Deputy Dana Walker.

The Harris County Deputies Organization, a union that represents sheriff’s office employees, did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post. It is unclear if the union represents the workers who were terminated or suspended. The employees have the right to appeal their disciplinary actions to an independent commission.

Houston police are still conducting a separate criminal investigation into the events leading up to Simmons’s death.

Simmons was initially jailed on Feb. 10 on a weapons charge and put in quarantine due to coronavirus precautions taken at the jail at the time, the sheriff said.

Six days later, Simmons used his clothing to clog the toilet in his cell, causing the room to flood, jail officials reported. When detention officers came into the cell to clean it, they used force against him, although it was not documented, the sheriff’s office found. Simmons was then left naked in his cell on one of the coldest days of the year. Jail policy requires staff to notify a supervisor before removing an inmate’s clothing and give the person a smock.

When an officer came back to his cell that night to deliver a meal, Simmons allegedly threw his food tray and charged at the officer, who punched Simmons in the face, according to the investigation. Deputies who escorted Simmons to receive medical evaluation used force again but did not document it, despite Simmons suffering multiple blows to his head, the sheriff’s office said.

Simmons had a cut to his left eyebrow and upper lip, the medical staff recorded. Power was out inside the jail because of the winter storm, so the medical staff ordered an X-ray as soon as possible, but he was never taken back to the clinic even after power was restored, investigators found.

Jailers also did not document required hourly visual checks on Simmons’s cell pod until minutes before they found him unresponsive on Feb. 17, another violation of policy, according to investigators. Simmons was taken to a hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead.

His mother, Larhonda Biggles, told the Houston Chronicle that her son, who suffered from mental health issues, was arrested shortly after leaving her birthday party.

After his death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, she told the newspaper she was still searching for clues about how he could have died after a week in Harris County Jail.

Biggles did not immediately respond Friday night when contacted by The Post, but previously told the Chronicle that, “we want people to know that we lost somebody and we don’t have no answers.”

“It’s like ‘Ok, he died, he’s buried — that’s it.’ No. We’re not going to let that be like that, you understand what I’m saying?” she said. “Somebody needs to be held accountable for what happened to my son.”

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