Inmate Who Died Had ‘Homemade Shank and a Razor’ in His Cell

Tarrant County Sheriff patch
Tarrant County Sheriff patch | Image by Tarrant County Sheriff's Office/Facebook

FORT WORTH — Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn explained at a press conference Thursday afternoon that one of the two inmates who died in the county jail last month had a “homemade shank and a razor” in his cell.

Waybourn and Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Jeremy Sherrod played video footage of the incident that led to Anthony Ray Johnson Jr.’s death following a lengthy fight with jail employees, two of whom were recently fired, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

The fight stemmed from a routine cell check for contraband, during which officers found two weapons.

The two former Tarrant County jail employees, Officer Rafael Moreno and Lt. Joel Garcia, who had over 30 years of experience combined, did not follow protocols, which may have contributed to Johnson’s death. For his part, Moreno had put his knee on Johnson’s back in an effort to restrain the man. Johnson subsequently became unresponsive.

“He was using a technique that, number one, he was not trained to do, and number two, that we do not tolerate nor do we want done,” Waybourn said of Moreno.

“Lt. Garcia was terminated on the basis that not only was he there, he was in charge and he was allowing this to occur. He also did not respond to the urgency of the situation. He was not urgent in carrying out his duties, and that had a detrimental effect,” the sheriff added.

Waybourn said that “officers testified that [Johnson] had superhuman strength” during the altercation.

“It was a very dangerous situation. He was pepper sprayed cause nothing else was working. It had no effect,” he said.

In the video played by officials, several officers surround Johnson after the fight broke out. Johnson can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe.”

“That is when Officer Moreno thought it was appropriate to put his knee in [Johnson’s] back,” Waybourn said, noting that Moreno stood up nearly 90 seconds later. “It was at that point that Mr. Johnson was nonresponsive.”

Waybourn noted that it is acceptable to put a knee into someone’s back “until you get them to restrain. Then, you immediately put them in the recovery position, and that didn’t happen. That was on Lieutenant Garica; he should have done that.”

Johnson was subsequently moved downstairs into a chair before medical staff began CPR. He was later taken to John Peter Smith Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The medical examiner has not yet determined the cause of Johnson’s death.

Sherrod noted that the Texas Rangers are investigating the circumstances surrounding Johnson’s death.

“There’s still a lot of missing pieces to the puzzle that we have to gather,” Sherrod said. “Make no mistake, if anybody is found of any wrongdoing, they will be held accountable. And I know that’s something to share with the community and also the family expect. That is why we want to be transparent today.”

Waybourn made note of Johnson’s criminal record after being asked about it by a reporter.

“He has a long history of criminal activity,” the sheriff said. “He also has been in custody before, and this whole event started in Saginaw, where he was out in the middle of traffic wielding a knife.

Johnson was arrested on April 19. Earlier that day, members of his family tried to get WellBridge Healthcare, a behavioral health hospital in Fort Worth, to admit him, but the facility purportedly turned Johnson away, claiming he did not meet the threshold of being enough of a threat to himself or others, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Waybourn said he was unaware of any problems Johnson caused when previously in Tarrant County’s custody.

When asked by a reporter at the press conference whether Johnson was “on anything,” Waybourn responded:

“In my experience, people — and I’m not saying he is because that toxicology is not back — but he was also a diagnosed schizophrenic. Remember, we have a mental health issue, and we have to find out where that came from.”

Support our non-profit journalism

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Continue reading on the app
Expand article