Earlier this year, Marvin Scott III was suffering a mental health crisis in a Texas jail. Instead of trying to help him, the detention officers in charge maced him and put a spit mask over his face. Scott died shortly after the struggle. While most of the eight officers involved were fired after the incident, a grand jury has declined to indict them of criminal wrongdoing.
According to NBC News, the Collin County grand jury failed to find probable cause to charge the eight officers with a crime. The grand jury did take the unusual step of releasing a statement following their decision, calling for a work group to be formed to study the circumstances that led to Scott’s death.
“We sincerely hope that the loss of Marvin Scott III will not be in vain,” the statement said. “We are therefore recommending that a work group be convened as soon as practicable to study the events of March 14 for lessons learned in an effort to avoid any similar future tragedy.”
Scott was arrested on March 14 at a mall in Allen, Texas on a charge of possessing less than two ounces of marijuana. He was allegedly behaving erratically, and the arresting officers initially took him to a hospital. After he was released, Scott was then taken to county jail where he was put on a restraining chair.
Scott’s family has said that he was previously diagnosed with schizophrenia and believe he was suffering from a mental crisis at the time of his death. A coroner ruled his death a homicide in April and said he died of a “fatal acute stress response” while struggling with the officers.
Sadly, this isn’t even one of the only instances this year of a mental health crisis leading to a person’s death in custody. In January, Jamal Sutherland died under similar circumstances while being detained in a North Carolina jail. It only further reiterates the idea that law enforcement isn’t equipped to deal with people suffering mental health crises.
“The failure of prosecutors to secure indictments in this matter reflects a trend in Texas of undervaluing the lives of African Americans suffering mental health [crises],” Lee Merritt, the attorney for the family, said on Twitter. Merritt added that the family hopes a federal grand jury will review the case.
As previously mentioned, seven of the officers involved in the incident were fired and another resigned after the incident. Zach Horn, an attorney representing some of the fired officers, released a statement saying that he will begin the process of getting the officers who want their jobs back reinstated. I just love that a man can die on their watch and cops will still feel like they were the ones wronged.