The firing of multiple detention officers involved in the in-custody death of a Black man is seen as “a good first step,” but they were neither charged nor arrested for their roles at the Collin County jail in McKinney, Texas.
Seven jail cops lost their jobs on Thursday, nearly two weeks after Marvin Scott III died on their watch at the detention center in suburban Dallas. Scott was arrested for marijuana possession on March 14 and booked the same day. The 26-year-old was found “sitting next to a joint” at an outlet mall.
His family contends he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The Dallas Morning News reported that the lawyer representing Scott’s family suggested the “small amount of weed” prompted officers to immediately criminalize him instead of recognizing the mental health crisis for what it was.
Scott was taken to a nearby hospital but was eventually released and booked in the Collin County jail that same say. Officers claim they observed Scott exhibiting “strange behavior” in the booking area, prompting them to pepper-spray him and use a “pain compliance technique” that the Dallas Morning News reported “many law-enforcement agencies abstain from using.”
The officers then covered Scott’s head with a spit hood. He eventually became unresponsive and was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. An official cause of death is pending.
Scott’s father was pleased with the officers’ firings but said they must be arrested and charged, as well. Scott’s mother said the officers “did not do their jobs like they were supposed to.”
An eighth officer who was involved resigned before he could be fired.
Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt is representing Scott’s family. He said Scott’s prior arrests related to his mental health should have compelled law enforcement to keep him hospitalized instead of jailing him.
“When officers are aware of [someone’s mental health history], they’re supposed to take certain precautions,” Merritt said last month after Scott died. “They were not taken here, and they’re often not taken, and it results in unnecessary death.”
Texas has become all but notorious for its in-custody deaths of Black people.
Notably, motorist Sandra Bland died behind bars following her controversial arrest for “assault of a public servant” during a routine traffic stop in Waller County in 2015. Bland’s death was ruled a suicide despite calls as recently as 2019 for the death to be re-investigated. The video of her arrest suggests she never should have been taken into custody in the first place. No one has been held accountable for her death.
In 2016, a 22-year-old mother also died in Texas police custody. Symone Nicole Marshall and a female passenger were involved in a single-vehicle accident before police arrested them both on possession of cocaine and misdemeanor and felony charges. Marshall allegedly provided false identification.
A day later, the friend was released after posting bail, but Marshall was unable to pay her $5,000 bond and spent two more weeks in jail. Her sisters claimed Marshall complained of headaches and feared blacking out. They reported Marshall’s discomfort to the Walker County Jail and insisted that she receive medical attention. Marshall ultimately suffered a seizure and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
And in 2019, Evan Lyndell Parker was found hanging in the same jail where Bland died. Bland’s death prompted police reforms that could have prevented Parker’s death. For example, face-to-face cell inspections were supposed to occur more frequently after Bland died. But Parker died a month after inspectors found that the jailers failed to meet standards for observing prisoners.