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11 Texas sheriff workers fired, 6 suspended in inmate death

HOUSTON (AP) — Eleven employees with a Texas sheriff’s office have been fired and six others suspended following the February death of an inmate who was hit multiple times in the head by detention officers, authorities announced Friday.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said medical examiners had ruled Jaquaree Simmons’s death a homicide from injuries to his head. A three-month internal affairs investigation concluded Simmons had two fights with detention officers on Feb. 16 when the jail had lost power and water pressure during the state’s deadly winter storm.

Simmons, 23, was evaluated by a doctor at a jail clinic and had a cut to his left eyebrow and upper lip but reported no pain. He was taken back to his cell, but officers failed to bring him back to the clinic for follow-up X-rays, according to Major Thomas Diaz, who led the internal affairs investigation.

Simmons was found unresponsive in his cell at 12:10 p.m. on Feb. 17 and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The officers who were fired or suspended were found to have violated various policies, including using excessive force, failing to document the use of force, not intervening when a fellow officer used force and making false statements to investigators, Diaz said.

“These 11 people betrayed my trust and the trust of our community. They abused their authority,” Gonzalez said. “Their conduct toward Mr. Simmons was reprehensible.”

Houston police is still conducting a separate criminal investigation into Simmons’ death.

While Gonzalez declined to comment on the criminal investigation, he said he believes crimes were committed in connection with Simmons’ death.

On Feb. 10, Simmons has been booked into the county jail on a charge of a felon in possession of a firearm. Diaz said Simmons had no health issues when he came to the jail.


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Juan A. Lozano, The Associated Press

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