Texas sheriff fires eleven employees and suspends six others for allegedly stripping, beating inmate during Texas winter storm

During last year’s historic winter storm in Texas, 23-year-old Jaquaree Simmons was booked into the county jail on a charge of a felon in possession of a firearm. An internal affairs investigation found that Simmons had three fights with ‘detention officers on Feb. 16 when the jail had lost power and water pressure during the state’s deadly winter storm.’ The first confrontation resulted in the use of force against Simmons after he had clogged the toilet of his jail cell with his clothes.

Officers responded to his cell to clean it up. That’s when HCSO said force was used against Simmons, however, no employees documented the use of force. Investigators said that’s a violation of sheriff’s office policy. Once they cleaned up the cell, officers sent Simmons back to it with no clothing, another violation of policy.

Later that evening, ‘a detention officer hit Simmons in the face after he had thrown his meal tray at the officer and charged at him, according to authorities. When more officers were called in to take him for a medical evaluation, they hit him multiple times in the head, said Major Thomas Diaz, who led the internal affairs investigation.’

Simmons 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 Diaz.

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.

Associated Press:

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.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences ruled that Simmons died from blunt force trauma to the head. Simmons’ death happened right in the middle of February’s historic winter storm.

“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.”

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