Courtesy Lee Merritt
(MCKINNEY, Texas) — The death of a 26-year-old Black man in custody at a Texas jail has been ruled a homicide.
Marvin Scott III, of Frisco, Texas, was arrested on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge by police in Allen, a suburb of northern Dallas, on March 14. The officers first took Scott to a local hospital because he was reportedly acting erratically. He was subsequently released and then transported to the Collin County Jail in McKinney, northeast of Allen, where he began “exhibiting some strange behavior,” Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner said at a press conference on March 19.
Detention officers restrained Scott to a bed, pepper-sprayed him and covered his face with a split mask. Scott was kept there for several hours and became unresponsive at some point. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital, according to Skinner, who called the incident “a profound tragedy.”
“I’m not here to make excuses for anyone,” Skinner told reporters. “People are upset, the family is upset, the community is upset, I’m upset.”
Collin County’s chief medical examiner, Dr. William Rohr, announced Wednesday that his findings show Scott’s cause of death was “fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint struggle with law enforcement.” The manner of death is listed as homicide.
Rohr said his office is still awaiting laboratory results before completing Scott’s final autopsy report.
Earlier this month, the Collin County sheriff announced that seven detention officers, who were initially placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation, have been fired for their alleged involvement in Scott’s death. Skinner said they violated department policies and procedures. An eighth detention officer has resigned. The identities of the officers have not been released.
The Texas Department of Public Safety’s Texas Rangers Division is leading the investigation into Scott’s death.
Scott’s family said he had schizophrenia and was experiencing a mental health crisis while in custody.
“He was using [marijuana] to self-medicate after being two years diagnosed with schizophrenia,” Lee Merritt, a civil rights lawyer who is representing Scott’s family, told ABC News in an interview earlier this month. “Here, in a largely white area, Marvin stood out. He wasn’t even given the benefit of the doubt as someone who needed to go to a medical facility.”
The family, who is calling for the detention officers to be brought to justice, went to the Collin County Courthouse in McKinney on Wednesday morning to watch video of the fatal incident. The footage has not been released publicly.
“What we saw today was horrific, inhumane, very disheartening,” Scott’s mother, LaSandra Scott, said at a press conference later that day. “We want these individuals arrested immediately.”
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