McKinney, TX – Protests erupted on Tuesday after a grand jury declined to indict eight detention officers in connection with the death of 26-year-old Marvin Scott III while in custody at the Collin County Jail.
Scott was arrested by Allen police officers at the All Premium Outlets mall on March 14 for possessing less than two ounces of marijuana, NBC News reported.
Allen police took Scott to the hospital because he was behaving erratically, and then booked him into the Collin County Jail after he was released.
Once in custody, Scott continued behaving strangely and Collin County detention officers working in the facility placed him on a restraint bed and secured him, NBC News reported.
His family members have claimed that Scott was suffering a mental health crisis when he fought jailers, KWTX reported.
Deputies used pepper spray on Scott, and eventually placed him in a spit hood when he continued to ignore officers’ commands.
His family said they were shown a surveillance video from inside the jail that showed detention officers did nothing to help Scott as he became unresponsive, strapped to the bed, KWTX reported.
They have called for the video to be released to the public.
Scott was transported to the hospital after he lost consciousness and pronounced dead, KWTX reported.
The medical examiner ruled Scott’s death was a homicide resulting from “fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint struggle with law enforcement,” KXAS reported.
Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner called Scott’s death a tragedy and fired seven of the eight detention officers who were involved for violating his department’s policies and procedures, KWTX reported.
Sheriff Skinner said he had accepted a resignation from an eighth officer.
Six of the detention officers appealed their terminations using the civil-service process and one was reinstated in April, KXAS reported.
Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis said the grand jury had spent days reviewing the evidence in the case, including videos and witness testimony, and had determined that none of the detention officers had engaged in criminal misconduct.
Willis said none of the detention officers would be charged in connection with Scott’s death, KXAS reported.
The Collin County grand jury who cleared the detention officers took the unusual step of issuing a statement along with their decision.
“After careful consideration of the applicable law and all the relevant facts, we find that no probable cause exists to charge any person with a criminal offense related to the death of Mr. Scott,” the statement read. “Accordingly, we have issued a no-bill for each of the eight detention officers involved.”
“This case was a tragedy foremost for Mr. Scott and his family, but also for his friends and our entire community,” the statement continued. “We would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Mr. Scott for the terrible loss you have suffered. We hope you can someday find peace.”
The grand jury also said they did not want Scott’s death to be in vain and called for a work group to study what happened when he died in an effort to avoid similar tragedies in the future and better prepare detention officers to deal with inmates suffering from mental illness, KXAS reported.
Lee Merritt, the notorious anti-police attorney and candidate for Texas attorney general who is representing Scott’s family, called Scott’s arrest “inappropriate” during a mental health crisis and said his family was “extremely disappointed” the detention officers were not charged.
Merritt said the family looked forward to a review of civil rights violations by a federal grand jury, KXAS reported.
“The evidence (unreleased video, spit-hood, OC spray, policy violations & a ME conclusion of homicide) provides more than sufficient probable cause for indictments,” the attorney said in a statement. “Marvin Scott’s family looks forward to a review by a Federal Grand Jury of his in-custody death. The failure of prosecutors to secure indictments in this matter reflects a trend in Texas of undervaluing the lives of African American’s suffering mental health crisis.”
Zach Horn, the attorney representing the fired detention officers, said he would start the process to have all his clients reinstated and chastised Sheriff Skinner for having rushed to judgment, KXAS reported.
“We are thankful that the Collin County Grand Jury put in the time and effort to evaluate this case on facts, evidence, and the law instead of Twitter hashtags and Facebook gossip,” Horn said in a statement. “Our clients followed every one of Jim Skinner’s policies and procedures on March 14, 2021. Skinner’s rush to fire our clients was nothing more than a frightened politician sacrificing the livelihoods of dedicated public servants for political expediency.”
“Stakeholders all around Collin County are beginning to learn what many current and past Collin County Sheriff’s Office insiders already know: Jim Skinner is all hat and no cattle. We now look forward to turning our attention to seeking reinstatement for those clients interested in returning to public service,” the detention officers’ lawyer added.