A former candidate for Texas attorney general and prominent civil rights attorney was arrested at a protest in Collin County Sunday afternoon.
According to McKinney police, protesters told officers sent to clear the roadway that they wanted to be arrested. After 10 minutes of warnings, three protesters were arrested for allegedly refusing police orders to leave the roadway.
Lee Merritt, known for representing black families who had lost a family member in encounters with police, Shelby Tauber, and Lachay Batts were arrested and charged with obstructing a roadway.
Merritt, who McKinney police say was carrying a firearm at the time of his arrest, was also charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon.
Tauber, 26, a freelance photographer, told The Dallas Morning News that those who had gathered were marching to bring awareness to mental health around the anniversary of Marvin Scott III’s death. Merritt had posted about the gathering on Instagram, calling it a “March for Mental Health” alongside a picture of Scott and his name:
“Police are murdering individuals in mental health crisis with impunity,” Merritt alleged. “We need you to show up and express your dissent tomorrow. See you there!”
Scott was in custody for alleged possession of marijuana in Collin County in 2021, per CNN. Scott, who was reportedly exhibiting unusual behavior, was pepper-sprayed by jailers and put into a spit hood. He was then restrained to a bed.
He subsequently died, and his death was ruled a homicide. Merritt was his attorney at the time and claimed that Scott was suffering a mental health crisis. In the wake of Scott’s death, several detention officers were fired.
Merritt disputed the McKinney Police Department’s characterization of the Sunday event on Instagram:
“I attended yesterdays protest as a legal advisor and did not obstruct the road or unlawfully carry. We will challenge every false charge in the court of law.”
“Marvin David Scott III was a 26 year old African American in mental health crisis on March 14, 2021 when he was taken into police custody in the same facility where I spent last night in McKinney, TX. During a manic episode he was held down, maced, gagged and suffocated until he died. 8 officers were immediately terminated but no one was ever arrested or charged,” Merritt added.
Both of Merritt’s charges are classified as Class B misdemeanors. He was released from jail on Monday.
Merritt finished third in the 2022 Democratic primary for Texas attorney general. Like his legal work, his campaign focused on civil rights and claims of police brutality.
His campaign failed to gather momentum when it was reported that he did not hold a license to practice law in Texas, despite the fact that the Texas Constitution does not require a Texas law license to become attorney general.
The Dallas Express reached out to Merritt’s law firm for additional information but did not receive a response by the publication deadline.
Welcome to Collin County, Mr. Merritt. You want win anything there. Don’t run for office again, your campaign was horrible. Joe Jaworski should have been the candidate, Paxton knew the two he could beat. Ms. Gracia didn’t try to Campaign, you have to wonder who she was campaigning for, Paxton!