Dead Inmate’s Family Demands Change

Tarrant County Jail
Tarrant County Jail | Image by NBC 5 DFW

A Fort Worth family whose loved one died while in custody at the Tarrant County jail last week is demanding change.

Anthony Johnson, 31, died after detention officers used Oleoresin Capsicum spray on him after he refused to exit his cell during a routine search, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

Johnson was examined by medical staff, during which time he became unresponsive. The medical team transported Johnson to John Peter Smith Hospital hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

He had been in jail since April 19 on charges of tampering with evidence and possession of a controlled substance. Johnson was reportedly waving a knife at drivers as he stood in the street, reported NBC 5 DFW.

Johnson, a Marine Corps veteran, had schizophrenia, according to Johnson’s sisters, Chanell and Janell Johnson.

The family got a knock on their door on the morning of April 21, when a chaplain and two sheriff’s deputies let them know that their brother had died at the hospital.

“We’re told we can’t even see him,” said Chanell, per NBC 5.

“And it’s just like, when you get told someone dies, how do we know it’s real?” she added.

“What’s the medical emergency, pepper spray?” Janell asked NBC 5. “And why can’t they say what it was?”

Johnson reportedly tried to seek medical treatment for his schizophrenia in the past several months, but medical providers would not see him. Consequently, Johnson was arrested during a manic episode, according to NBC 5.

Tarrant County Commissioner Alisa Simmons issued a statement on April 22, which, in part, read, “We have people dying in our jail at rates that are unacceptable. Two deaths within a four-day period; five total deaths in 3.5 months amount to an incredibly high rate. Being accused of a crime and going to the county jail should not be a death sentence under any circumstance,” per NBC 5.

Simmons has asked for accountability and called for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Dallas County has also seen jail deaths, with two inmates having died in August 2023. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins criticized the jail’s situation as a “mess.” The jail hit 97% capacity, prompting Dallas County officials to release inmates despite increased crime in Dallas.

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