On Tuesday a grand jury cleared eight officers of any wrongdoing and will not be charged in the death of Marvin Scott III, a Black man killed in police custody in Mckinney, Texas on March 14.
The grand jury also released a statement regarding the case:
“We are therefore recommending that a work group be convened as soon as practicable to study the events of March 14th for lessons learned in an effort to avoid any similar future tragedy.
We recommend that this work group consist of a diverse group of Collin County community leaders, criminal justice and law enforcement stakeholders, local hospitals, and mental health providers.
The goal of this work group should be finding the best solutions for the treatment of individuals with mental illness who come into contact with the criminal justice system.”
The Signal spoke with Lee Merritt, the civil rights attorney representing the family. Merritt said that Scott was targeted and his death is a reflection of statistics of policing in this country.
“Black people are 2.5 times more likely to be brutalized, arrested by law enforcement in situations like this than the average person,” Merritt said. “However, people suffering a mental health crisis are 16 times more likely to have this encounter. So in this situation it was a reflection of a statistical fact that minorities and people suffering disabilities are targeted by law enforcement in the state of Texas and across the country.”
On March 14, APD officers arrested Scott at an outlet mall for having less than two ounces of marijuana. Scott had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2018 and self medicated with marijuana because his prescribed medicine made him feel sluggish, according to Merritt. APD officers knew of Scott’s mental disability from two prior arrests and documentation on his record.
Yet, officers still decided to arrest Scott and take him to a local mental hospital for “erratic behavior.” After he was released from the hospital, APD booked Scott in the Collin County jail where they reported he was joking and dancing around in the cell, speaking to people, and being very demonstrative with his hands, according to Merritt.
“Not violent, but he was pacing, sweating profusely, paranoid and expressed concern on his captivity and what they planned to do with him,” Merritt said. “Finally they moved him from a cell that included eight officers to a single person cell.”
In video footage, seen by the family and Merritt, Scott is seen being brutalized by officers minutes before his death. According to Merritt, after he was moved Scott stripped himself of his clothes and continued to ask the officers for help. Then officers decided to strap Scott to a restraint bed because they were allegedly concerned Scott would harm himself even though there was no indication of self injuring behavior.
Merritt said officers failed to communicate the plan with Scott and instead used excessive force.
“He was brutalized at the initial encounter,” Merritt said.“His arm was twisted behind his back; they made him stick one of his arms through the door while they opened up the door which caused his body to contort in a painful way,” Merritt said.
According to Merritt, officers then placed a spit hood over his head even though there was no indication that Scott was spitting. Scott was then pepper sprayed so much that inmates who were in cells 40 feet away from the encounter also suffered burning sensations in their eyes.
“One of the officers pepper sprayed him, another grabbed his head, others climbed on top of him and held him down with the spit hood over his head and for him a paranoid schizophrenic that would have given him the sensation of being buried alive,” Merritt said. “He fought desperately to try to sit up right and they continued to force him down until his chest began to heave into heavy compressions.”
Merrit said in the five hour long footage, Scott visibly is struggling to breath until he goes limp. After going limp, first aid was administered and he was transported by ambulance to a hospital where he was pronounced deceased.
Both the Collin County Medical Examiner Dr.William Rohr and the private medical examiner ruled Scott’s death a homicide. The cause of death determined by the private medical examiner was described as a probable cause of asphyxiation.
After watching footage of Scott’s death in April, Scott’s family called for justice and asked that the officers involved in his death be arrested immediately.
“What we saw today was horrific, inhumane and very disheartening,” LaSandra Scott, Marvin’s mother, said in a press conference.
Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner fired the officers immediately following Scott’s death and said the officer didn’t follow department policies. The seven officers involved in the case were put on administrative leave while another resigned. Since then one of those seven officers has been reinstated in the department by the Civil Service Commission of Texas.