Eleven employees at Texas’ Harris County Jail have been fired and another six have been suspended without pay for their involvement in the death of an inmate, the Houston Chronicle reports. Officials probing the death of Jaquaree Simmons ultimately determined the jail workers used excessive force and failed to report that to investigators.
During the brutal winter storm that swept across Texas in February, Simmons, who had a mental health condition, was found passed out in his cell just a week after he was put behind bars for a weapons charge, according to the newspaper. He was declared dead an hour after he was found. Officials say in the week leading up to his death, he was quarantining in his cell alone because of COVID-19. On the morning of Feb. 16, he had clogged his toilet with clothes, causing it to overflow. The jailers on duty failed to give him a new set of clothes, leaving him naked during the storm. Later that day, investigators believe Simmons was struck multiple times on the head as he was taken to get a medical evaluation following an altercation with a detention officer. He was declared dead the next day. Simmons’ death was determined a homicide, caused by blunt force injuries to the head, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences said.
“During a natural disaster, we expect to see the very best in our employees. These 11 people betrayed my trust and the trust of our community,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez wrote in a statement. “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.”