Seven detention officers involved in the in-custody death of a Black man whose family members say may have been suffering from a mental health crisis have been fired, according to a statement from the Collin County Sheriff's office.
The statement, released Thursday afternoon, said the detention officers were terminated on March 14 for violating sheriff's office policies and procedures leading up to the death of 26-year-old Marvin Scott III; an eighth detention officer resigned while under investigation, the sheriff's office said.
“Although the Texas Rangers’ comprehensive criminal investigation into the death of Marvin D. Scott, III continues, I have today terminated the employment of seven detention officers involved in his tragic death and have been notified of the resignation of an eighth officer who was under investigation," Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner said in a statement. "Evidence I have seen confirms that these detention officers violated well-established Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures. Everyone in Collin County deserves safe and fair treatment, including those in custody at our jail. I will not tolerate less.”
The names and races of the detention officers haven't been released.
Scott's parents told NBC5 the firings were a step in the right direction, but are waiting for the officers involved to be arrested and charged.
"We’re moving toward where we need to go and it’s not enough but it’s a start," said LaSandra Scott, Marvin Scott's mother.
"I was happy that they were fired, but we’re looking forward to an arrest," said Scott's father, Marvin Scott, Jr. "What's taking so long to make the arrest? You already saw the tape. You thought they should be fired. You know something went wrong. Arrest them."
Scott was arrested at the Allen Premium Outlets last month for the possession of fewer than two ounces of marijuana, which is a misdemeanor, Skinner said.
Scott was first taken to a hospital where he remained in an emergency room for about three hours, the department said. He was then released and taken to the Collin County Jail.
While in custody, Scott appeared to "exhibit some strange behavior," which prompted detention officers to secure him onto a restraint bed, the sheriff said. Officers used pepper spray and attached a spit mask on Scott's face.
At some point, he became unresponsive and was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Law enforcement's use of face coverings such as spit hoods on people -- and the frequent reliance on police to respond to mental health emergencies -- drew new attention last year following Daniel Prude's suffocation in Rochester, New York. The mesh coverings have been linked to other deaths.
The Collin County Medical Examiner is expected to release its autopsy in a few weeks. An independent autopsy found Scott's death was likely caused by restraint and asphyxiation.
Scott's mother said her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia two years ago, but hadn't had an episode in about a year.
Marvin Scott III
"When we got him okay with his medication, he was starting to take them and fell off and felt like if he would use marijuana, it would benefit him more," LaSandra Scott said.
Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney representing the Scott family, said an officer recognized Scott was experiencing a mental health issue during his arrest and took him to a hospital. However, in previous interactions with police, Scott was taken to a mental health facility.
Scott's family has many questions. They want to know why he was released from the hospital in the first place; if life-saving interventions took place before EMS arrived; what time an ambulance was called; and if officers who handled Scott had mental health training, or if there was a health specialist on hand. They also hope to see video from the jail.
Skinner didn't comment on whether detention officers knew Scott’s history of mental illness but said that will be part of the investigation. The sheriff also said there are protocols that they follow when it comes to mental health response, but he did not elaborate.
The family has asked for the detention officers to be arrested.
Marvin Scott III
News of the terminations on Thursday were "a great relief for the family" a day after they buried their son, Merritt said. The family had been discouraged by the slow progress in the investigations but said that he hopes the terminations, "gives them a sense of hope that there will be justice for Marvin."
Though it remains unclear what the officers did or didn't do in Scott's case, Merritt believes they will be criminally charged, citing the sheriff, who said that the officers clearly violated policies. Merritt added that now that the administrative investigation is over, he hopes to receive the video evidence promised by the sheriff so that he can begin preparing his civil case.
The lawyer said he wasn't aware of the eighth person involved in the case, but he hopes everyone involved in Scott's death is held accountable.
The Scott family released a statement about the firings late Thursday night.
"Just one day after the funeral of Marvin Scott III, the Collin County Sheriff has fired seven detention officers in connection with his death while in police custody," it said. "We are pleased with this decision and consider this progress, the first step of many more to come. Next, these former officers need to be arrested and brought to justice. Our team is now looking into the possible involvement of an 8th individual and we hope to meet with the district attorney’s office soon. and we look forward to meeting with the District Attorney’s office."
NBC 5's Sophia Beausoleil contributed to this report.