Sheriff’s Office Fires 11, Suspends 6
(TX) – Eleven employees with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office have been fired and six were suspended. The actions were taken after an extensive investigation into the death of an inmate, 23-year-old Jaquaree Simmons. The Medical Examiner determined that Simmons’ death was a homicide. According to ABC13.com,
The sheriff’s office said investigators conducted 73 interviews of 37 employees and 20 jail detainees. They also reviewed phone records and security video footage, while also analyzing evidence such as round sheets and medical records.
A jail should have plenty of video evidence, but in this case, the video evidence is severely lacking. All three assaults happened “out of view of the 1,490 security cameras.” Yes, officers who work in the jail are well-aware of where the blind spots are in the surveillance system.
The Internal Affairs investigation determined that officers “were found to have violated various policies, including using excessive force, failing to document the use of force, not intervening when a fellow officer used force and making false statements to investigators.”
Police Violence Results in the Death of Jaquaree Simmons
Jaquaree Simmons was no angel. He was in jail on a charge of Felon in Possession of a Firearm. But he still deserved to be treated humanely. He still had civil rights. Beginning on February 15, those civil rights were ignored.
On the 15th, Simmons took off an item of clothing and stuffed it in the toilet, causing it to overflow. Detention officers used force on Simmons when they entered the cell, but did not document it. That is a violation. The cell was cleaned. “HCSO said detention officers sent Simmons back with no clothing.” This incident was during the deadly Texas storm and during a time when the power was out at the jail. That means they left him naked during below freezing conditions, when the heating system couldn’t run. The detention officers did not get approval to remove his clothing, another violation. And they didn’t even give him a smock, another violation.
When the detention officer took Simmons’ his food tray, Simmons threw it at the officer. The detention officer punched Simmons in the head, then closed the door and called for backup. It appears the strike to the head may be the only use of force that was in the officer’s report. Multiple officers responded to take Simmons for a medical evaluation. On the way, Simmons received numerous strikes to his head. Every officer at a use of force incident should have written a report. None did in the first and third assault.
Cause of Death
According to NPR.com,
Simmons, 23, was evaluated by a doctor at a jail clinic and had a cut to his left eyebrow and upper lip but reported no pain. He was taken back to his cell, but officers failed to bring him back to the clinic for follow-up X-rays, according to Major Thomas Diaz, who led the internal affairs investigation.
Simmons was found unresponsive in his cell at 12:10 p.m. on Feb. 17 and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The Medical Examiner ruled the cause of death as being blunt force trauma. I’m surprised hypothermia was not a contributing factor.
Sheriff’s Press Release
Sheriff Gonzalez spoke to the media about the terminations and suspensions. Per ABC13.com,
“During a natural disaster, we expect to see the very best in our employees,” said Gonzalez. “These 11 people betrayed my trust and the trust of our community. They abused their authority. Their conduct toward Mr. Simmons was reprehensible. They showed complete disregard for the safety and well-being of a person they were directly responsible for protecting. They escalated, rather than de-escalated, the situation. 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.”
Murder Charges are Likely to Come
A criminal investigation is being conducted and is likely to return murder charges against various individuals. Excessive force was used against Mr. Simmons. If he was being moved and had already been violent, he would have been in restraints. That means he was assaulted while he was handcuffed and, more than likely, shackled. The assaults were not documented and occurred in areas where they would not be caught on camera. The detention officers chose to hide the assault and did nothing to stop it. That makes them all complicit, regardless of whether a person threw a punch or not.
Inmate checks are supposed to be done hourly. With the electricity down, the logs had to be kept manually. None were from February 15 to 17, the day Simmons was found “unresponsive in his cell.” We don’t know if they ever checked up on him. This is another violation that will add weight to the charges against the officers involved.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Harris County will be facing another wrongful death lawsuit. Jaquaree Simmons’ family has every right to file against Harris County. There was definitely a violation of civil rights in the Simmons murder. So yet again, police brutality will cost the taxpayers dearly and another Black man is dead.
We keep saying detention officers because they were the majority, but there were law enforcement officers involved. Those that do not have ‘detention’ in their title, are law enforcement officers. The specifics of the suspension have not been given. Below is a list of the officers involved.
Detention Officers Garland Barrett, Patricia Brummett, Joshua Dixon, Alysheia Mallety, Israel Martinez, Eric Morales, Alfredo Rodriguez, Daniel Rodriguez, Chadwick Westmoreland, Sgt. Jacob Ramirez, and law enforcement officer Deputy Dana Walker.
Detention Officers Antonio Barrera, Jeremy McFarland, Alexandra Saucier, Ralph Tamayo, Sgt. Rene Villaloboz, and law enforcement officer Sgt. Benny Galindez. (See ABC13 article for more details on the suspensions).