Seven law enforcement officials have been fired after allegedly killing 26-year-old Texan Marvin Scott III, a Black man whose family said he was likely suffering from a mental health crisis when he was picked up for marijuana possession on March 14.
"Evidence I have seen confirms that these detention officers violated well-established Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures,” said Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner in a press statement.
“Everyone in Collin County deserves safe and fair treatment, including those in custody at our jail. I will not tolerate less.”
An eighth officer resigned during an investigation into his conduct. The identities of the officers involved have not been released.
The Texas Rangers are now conducting a criminal investigation of the fired officers’ actions.
For more than two weeks, Scott’s family has been protesting outside the county jail every evening in pursuit of justice. They want the officers arrested and security footage from the night of their son’s death to be released.
"We want to know, how did my son die?,” asked his mother, LaSandra Scott. “We want answers.”
Scott was arrested on misdemeanor cannabis possession charges when he was found sitting next to a single joint at the Allen Premium Outlets Mall in Allen, Texas. The cops apparently had received a disturbance call that Scott had been acting irregularly.
In a 2020 ACLU report, it was found that Black people are 3.64 times more likely to be arrested on marijuana possession charges than white people, and are arrested at higher rates in every state. Legalization has not corrected racial disparities in drug policing, and in some places, has made them worse.
Some Texas law enforcement agencies have taken steps to divert police resources to such low-level drug arrests. Recently, a Dallas police chief announced that they'd arrest fewer people for possession of small amounts of cannabis.
Scott’s mother says that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia two years ago, but had not had an attack since his diagnosis. She says that he began using marijuana to deal with his symptoms.
Police first took Scott to an emergency room due to erratic behavior, and upon his release, transferred him to the Collin County Jail.
"Why, why, why was he given medical clearance?” asked Scott’s mother at one of the family’s protests in front of the jail where he eventually died.
A report states that once he arrived at the jail, Scott began to “exhibit some strange behavior” in the jail’s booking area — strange enough that it led the police to tie him to a bed, pepper spray him (with a substance known as OC spray, or oleoresin capsicum), and cover his face with a spit hood.
The hood was left on Scott’s head for hours. He became unresponsive, and by the time an ambulance arrived, he was dead.
A spit hood, according to a New York Times article from last year, is “a loose, breathable fabric sack that can be placed over a person’s head to prevent them from biting or spitting.”
The same NYT article, published after the asphyxiation death of Daniel Prude at the hands of Rochester, New York police, mentions that some jurisdictions have rules against putting a spit hood on someone who has been pepper sprayed. That lethal combination has likely claimed many lives, including that of Floridian Lloyd Edwards in 2018.
Results from an independent autopsy by a forensic pathologist hired by Scott’s family show that he probably died from asphyxiation and restraint. His official autopsy from the Collin County medical examiner has yet to be released.