A grand jury in Texas declined Tuesday to indict the eight former detention officers involved in the in-custody death of Marvin Scott III, according to a news release from Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis.
Scott died in March after being placed on a restraint bed, pepper-sprayed, and having a spit mask put on his face while in custody at the Collin County Detention Facility.
The county medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.
Seven detention officers were fired and one resigned following Scott’s death.
“This decision means the Grand Jury has cleared the eight former officials of any criminal wrongdoing and they won’t be charged with any state criminal offense,” the district attorney said in a statement.
Willis said Scott’s family was informed of the grand jury’s decision before the public announcement.
In a string of tweets Tuesday night, Lee Merritt, the attorney representing Scott’s family voiced his and family’s displeasure with the decision.
“Marvin Scott’s family is extremely disappointed the GJ failed to bring charges in this case,” Merritt wrote. “The evidence (unreleased video, spit-hood, OC spray, policy violations & a ME conclusion of homicide, provides more than sufficient probable cause for indictments.”
He said the lack of indictments shows a trend in Texas of undervaluing the lives of Black people in mental health crisis. Scott was showing signs of a crisis before the officers restrained him, Merritt said.
The prosecutor said he was sending prayers to the family.
“This case is a tragedy for all involved, first and foremost for the family and friends of Mr. Scott,” Willis said.
The law firm representing the former officers applauded the grand jury’s decision.
“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,” attorney Zach Horn said.
Horn added that he would turn his attention to seeking reinstatement for the former officers who may be “interested in returning to public service.”
Scott became nonresponsive during jail struggle
Scott’s cause of death was “fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint struggle with law enforcement,” Collin County Medical Examiner Dr. William Rohr said in April.
Scott was arrested in the city of Allen, just north of Dallas, for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana, Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner said in a news conference March 22.
Allen police officers arrested Scott after responding to a disturbance call at an outlet mall and finding Scott “acting in an erratic manner,” according to the news release from Allen Police.
The officers “were concerned for his safety due to the possible ingestion of drugs,” the release said.
Scott was taken by ambulance to the Texas Health Allen Hospital and was in the emergency room for approximately three hours, according to the release.
The release said Scott was “released with a physician’s clearance that he could be taken into custody.”
Scott was processed at the Allen Police headquarters holding facility before being transported and transferred to the custody of the sheriff’s office, the release said.
Scott was brought to the county jail at 6:22 p.m. on March 14 and “exhibited some strange behavior” while in the booking area, Skinner said at the news conference.
Officers tried to restrain him on a bed, spraying him once with pepper spray and putting a spit mask on his face, the sheriff said.
“At around 10:22 p.m., while being placed on the restraint bed, Mr. Scott became nonresponsive,” Skinner said.
Staff started giving him emergency medical attention and he was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Skinner said.
“I was broken-hearted to learn that someone had died in our custody,” Skinner told reporters.