Police custody death of Black man in Texas ruled homicide

LaSandra Scott speaks during a news conference concerning updates on her son Marvin Scott III's in-custody death at the Collin County Courthouse. The death of Scott, who struggled with detention officers at the Texas jail during what his family members say probably was a mental health crisis, has been ruled a homicide.
LaSandra Scott speaks during a news conference concerning updates on her son Marvin Scott III's in-custody death at the Collin County Courthouse. The death of Scott, who struggled with detention officers at the Texas jail during what his family members say probably was a mental health crisis, has been ruled a homicide.

Credit: Shelby Tauber

Credit: Shelby Tauber

The death of a 26-year-old Black man who was forcibly restrained during a struggle with police officers at a Texas jail last month has been ruled a homicide, according to a medical examiner’s report.

Marvin David Scott III of Frisco, Texas, died in custody on March 14 after he was arrested on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge at an outlet mall outside Dallas.

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Reports said officers at the Collin County Jail in McKinney strapped the man to a bed, pepper-sprayed him and then placed a spit mask over his head before leaving him there for several hours.

Scott was later found unresponsive and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

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Scott died as a result of “fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint struggle with law enforcement,” said Collin County Medical Examiner Dr. William Rohr, whose office is awaiting toxicology results before issuing a final autopsy report.

Seven jailers were ultimately fired for their alleged involvement, however, none have been arrested or charged with any crime.

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The circumstances that led to the man’s death began March 14 at an outlet mall in Allen, where Scott was reportedly “acting in an erratic manner” before Allen Police Department officers arrested him for possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana.

From there, Scott was transported to a local hospital, where he stayed in the emergency room for about three hours “due to the possible ingestion of drugs,” police said.

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After being released from the hospital, Scott was taken to the Collin County lockup about 6:22 p.m., according to Sheriff Jim Skinner, who gave a news conference on March 19, five days after Scott died.

Skinner said Scott continued to act “strange” as he was being booked into the jail which escalated into an altercation with deputies, who deployed pepper spray and fitted Scott with a head covering to prevent him from spitting on officers.

Four hours later, at around 10:22 p.m., Scott had seemingly become lifeless as he was placed on a restraint bed, Skinner said.

Earlier this month, Skinner terminated seven officers who he said “violated well-established Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures” during Scott’s detainment.

Another officer resigned during the ongoing investigation.

“Everyone in Collin County deserves safe and fair treatment, including those in custody at our jail. I will not tolerate less,” Skinner said when announcing the firings, according to CBS News.

Six of the fired officers appealed and one has since been reinstated, according to CBS Dallas-Fort Worth.

On Wednesday at the Collin County Courthouse in McKinney, Scott’s family was allowed to view five hours of video footage taken of the man’s confrontation with deputies, noting that Scott suffered from schizophrenia and was likely experiencing a mental health episode as the situation turned physical.

“What we saw today was horrific, inhumane, very disheartening,” Scott’s mother, LaSandra Scott, said at a news conference later in the day. “We want these individuals arrested immediately.”

Family attorney Lee Merritt said the footage demonstrated “repeated opportunities” for the officers to provide first aid to Scott, who “was clearly in a schizophrenic episode.”

“Instead, he received brutality ... Instead, he was maced. He was assaulted, he was restrained, he was treated as someone who was being criminally non-compliant, not as someone in need of desperate help.”

Merritt said the sheriff’s office had records on file that should have made them aware of Scott’s history with mental illness, however, Skinner has not confirmed whether officers had any knowledge of Scott’s history.

“He was using [marijuana] to self-medicate after being two years diagnosed with schizophrenia,” Merritt 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 Texas Rangers are continuing to investigate.

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