Officials To Address Inmate Death, Termination of Two Jailers

Jail cells
Jail cells and shadows | Image by rawf8/Shutterstock

Two jail employees have been fired in Fort Worth following the death of an inmate, and officials will be addressing the matter at a press conference at 4 p.m.

The jailers, who were employed by the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department, were likely terminated in connection with the death of inmate Anthony Johnson Jr.

Jane Bishkin, an attorney with the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, confirmed that Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn fired one of the unidentified jailers on Thursday.

Bishkin told WFAA that the termination letter did not stipulate any specific reason.

“We don’t believe any of our members violated departmental policies or contributed to the inmate’s death in any way,” Biskin said. “We feel that the sheriff’s actions are premature as the medical examiner’s report has not been released; therefore, we don’t know the cause of death.”

Biskin suggested that the sheriff’s actions were in response to the “heightened public interest in this case.”

In a development Thursday afternoon, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that the fired jailer’s supervisor had been terminated as well the previous day. An attorney for one of the former employees at the jail claimed that the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department was attempting to avoid blame for Johnson’s death by laying it at the feet of employees.

“We will be appealing. The one thing in common on all these deaths is the leadership. Firing the rank and file obviously has not solved the problem,” claimed attorney Randy Moore, who is representing the former jail supervisor, per WFAA.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Johnson was one of two inmates who died while in jail custody last month.

Johnson, who died on April 21, was said to have suffered a medical emergency after being pepper sprayed during an incident with officers in his cell, per WFAA.

The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office said the detention officers noted that a fight broke out after Johnson allegedly refused to exit his cell during a routine check for contraband.

“He did have a long history of mental health and was diagnosed with schizophrenia,” Waybourn said during a press conference on April 25.

According to Waybourn, Johnson’s family had previously attempted to take him to a private mental institution. However, he was refused admittance after being deemed not a danger to himself or others.

Waybourn further explained that Johnson had been arrested in Saginaw on April 26 by local police for alleged possession of a controlled substance and tampering with evidence. He was then booked into the Tarrant County jail.

“Less than 20 hours from that is when the incident occurred,” the sheriff said.

Johnson’s family has demanded answers, prompting them to attend a meeting of the Tarrant County Commissioners Court on May 7, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“You killed my son,” Johnson’s mother, Jacqualyne Johnson, said before the court.

“You can’t see my pain right now, but I can make sure y’all turn colors and see pain,” Anthony Johnson’s sister, Janell Johnson, told the commissioners.

The Dallas Express reached out to all involved agencies and will continue to monitor this story and provide updates as they become available.

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