Autopsy reveals Marvin Scott III ‘likely’ died from restraint, asphyxiation in sheriff’s custody — negligence of mental health protocol resulted in ‘unnecessary death,’ lawyer says

Scott appeared to be in a mental health crisis while in custody; family says officers should have taken appropriate measures for Scott's schizophrenia
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As part of a continuous investigation, an independent autopsy of Marvin Scott III revealed that he “likely” died from restraint and asphyxiation while in the custody of the Collin County Sheriff. However, such factors are not the definitive cause of death, which will be determined once the toxicology report returns, NBC 5 reported.

The autopsy was paid for by the Scott family and performed by the American Forensics of Mesquite, according to Local Profile. KAGS also reported that the initial autopsy showed that Scott’s death may have been heart-related.

“The physical struggle of the restraint, as well as the possible asphyxiation from the restraint, would likely be the causes of his death,” forensic pathologist Dr. Amy Gruszecki told NBC 5.

“And a negative autopsy — meaning no injuries, no blunt force trauma — is consistent with that.”

“Justice for Marvin:” protestors demanding for the truth about what happened while Scott was in custody (Photo courtesy of Shelby Tauber/Dallas Morning News)

The death of the 26-year-old Texas man with a history of mental illness has ignited outrage from his grieving family as well as activists across the US, who have mobilized to demand the truth from law enforcement. Demonstrators even gathered outside the Collin County Jail on March 18 to pressure the arrest of detention officers, NBC 5 reported.

“We want to know: how did my son die? We want answers,” his mother LaSandra Scott said during a news conference outside the Collin County courthouse.

Scott’s sister LeChat Batts remembers her younger brother as a beacon of positivity and selflessness.

“Marvin was funny. His spirit was amazing. He would do anything for anybody,” she said during the conference.

Sheriff Jim Skinner said that he had promised the Scott family a comprehensive and transparent investigation.

“The death of this young man is a profound tragedy and I have an obligation to uncover the full and complete truth, firm, concrete, and accurate information,” the sheriff said.

“We want answers.” Scott’s mother LaSandra Scott speaking at a news conference outside the courthouse (Photo courtesy of NBC)

On March 14, Scott was arrested near Allen Premium Outlets in Collins County for possessing less than two ounces of marijuana and appeared to have a mental health crisis while in sheriff’s custody. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia two years ago and uses marijuana to assuage his mental illness struggles.

Officers took Scott into custody at around 6:22 PM that day, according to Local Profile. The Allen Police transported him to the hospital, where he was eventually given medical clearance to be discharged and taken to the detention facility.

At the Collin Country Jail, Scott reportedly “exhibited some strange behaviour” so seven detention officers tried to strap him to a bed in his cell in response. They restrained his legs and one of his arms before he eventually broke free, Vice reported, citing Dallas Morning News.

One officer pinned Scott’s arm down with their knee while another held their finger on a pressure point below his jaw, forcing his head upward in a “pain compliance technique,” said the family’s attorney, Lee Merritt. When Scott resisted, officers pepper-sprayed him — Merritt said he is asthmatic — and placed a spit hood on him.

At around 10:22 PM, Scott was found unresponsive while on the restraint bed. Officers and nursing staff provided medical attention and finally called an ambulance.

Scott was pronounced dead, at around 11:30 PM, when he arrived at the hospital.

The video footage of what happened at the Collin County Jail has yet to be released, despite the family’s demands to see it, WFAA reported.

Protestors outside Allen Premium Outlets, where Scott was arrested (Photo courtesy of Shelby Tauber/Dallas Morning News)

The family said the authorities should have been mindful of Scott’s mental illness and taken health precautions accordingly — especially since they knew of his medical condition from previous arrests.

“There are protocols with people with mental health issues when officers are aware, they are supposed to follow and that did not happen here resulting in an unnecessary death,” said Merritt.

As KAGS pointed out, the lingering question is why was a man with a mental illness taken to the detention facility in the first place?

The Washington Post has a regularly updated database of fatal encounters with the police, and found that 978 people have been shot and killed by officers in the past year alone. Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate, accounting for only 13% of the US population but are killed by officers at more than double the rate of white Americans, according to the Post.

Since 2015, 23% of all Americans — 1,415 people in total — killed by police officers have had a known mental illness. And out of that segment, 228 people at the intersection of being Black and mentally ill have died at the hands of a police officer.

“Fatal Force:” The Washington Post’s database of deadly police encounters (Photo courtesy of The Washington Post)

Advocates and protesters have heavily criticized the police force’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and its ability to deescalate mental health crises, especially when so many police interventions result in casualties.

“Woefully inadequate mental health services across the country means police are usually the first to respond to someone in a mental health and/or substance abuse crisis,” according to NPR.

It is estimated that 20% of all police calls are for mental health related ordeals. Advocates also say that mental health crisis teams remove police from responding unless absolutely necessary, NPR reported.

Seven Collin County employees have been placed on administrated leave as Texas Rangers conduct an inquiry into the circumstances of Scott’s in-custody death, according to KAGS.

The Scott family will speak at a rally at the Collin County Courthouse in McKinney on March 26.

Scott’s father, Marvin Scott Jr, has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for his son’s funeral expenses.

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