Two Tarrant County jailers fired after in-custody death

two tarrant county jailers fired after in-custody death

Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn says two jailers have been fired following an internal investigation into the in-custody death of 31-year-old Anthony Johnson. The Texas DPS, meanwhile, is continuing its criminal investigation into the incident.

Johnson died on April 21 following a confrontation with detention officers who the sheriff said Thursday were sweeping the jail for contraband. The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office said Johnson died after pepper spray was used during a struggle and that he became unresponsive after being restrained by jailers.

"The two team members that were terminated was one Officer Rafael Moreno and he was using a technique that number one he was not trained to do and number two that we do not tolerate nor do we want done," Waybourn said. "The second one was Lt. Joe Garcia. Lt. Garcia was terminated on the basis that not only was he there, he was in charge and he was allowing this to occur. He also did not respond to the urgency of the situation. He was not urgent in carrying out his duties and that had a detrimental effect."

Waybourn said detention officers are allowed to put their knee into the back of a person until restraints are in place, but that they are then expected to immediately put the restrained person into a recovery position.

The sheriff released surveillance video from within the jail showing the interaction between detention officers and Johnson. Describing the video, Waybourn said Johnson struggled with detention officers for 2 to 3 minutes in what he described as a very long, dangerous confrontation near a railing.

Waybourn said Johnson's family was shown the video earlier in the day before it was publicly released Thursday afternoon.

The Texas Rangers, a part of the Texas Department of Public Safety, are investigating the death. On Thursday, Texas DPS Regional Director Jeremy Sherrod said the investigation is ongoing and asked for continued patience. Sherrod said once the investigation is completed if criminal actions were determined to have occurred then the case would be referred to the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office.

Waybourn said the medical examiner has not yet ruled on Johnson's cause of death and a toxicology report has not been completed.

Waybourn said detention officers were checking the cells for contraband when the confrontation occurred. The sheriff said a razor and a shank were found in Johnson's cell.

two tarrant county jailers fired after in-custody death

NBC 5 News

The family of Anthony Johnson holds up a photo of him in his Marine Corps dress blues.

Since 2017, 63 inmates at the county jail have died with the most recent death being Johnson's on April 21.

The sheriff said before Johnson was arrested, his family tried to put him in a private mental health facility but he was turned away. Waybourn said this incident highlighted a need for more resources to help mental health patients – other than detention facilities.

After Johnson's death, Tarrant County Commissioner Alisa Simmons called for the U.S. Department of Justice to also investigate the facility.

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