The in-custody death of Marvin David Scott III, a 26-year-old Black man who was allegedly pepper-sprayed and had a spit mask placed on his face while he was held at a Texas detention facility in March, was ruled a homicide on Wednesday.
Dr. William Rohr, the medical examiner in Collin County, said Scott's death was caused by “fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint struggle with law enforcement.” Rohr's office said it's waiting to obtain laboratory results before publishing a final autopsy report.
Scott was taken into custody on March 14 by officers from the Allen Police Department, who said he was “acting in an erratic manner” at an outlet mall. He was transported to a hospital and held in an emergency room for approximately three hours “due to the possible ingestion of drugs,” Allen police said.
Scott, who had been arrested for possessing less than 2 ounces of marijuana, was then transferred to a detention facility in Collin County at approximately 6:22 p.m., Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner said at a March 19 press briefing.
Skinner said Scott began exhibiting “strange behavior” in the booking area at some point after he arrived, but did not elaborate. When several officers struggled to secure him to a restraint bed, they deployed pepper spray once and placed a spit mask — a covering with netting fabric designed to prevent a person from spitting on officers — on his face, Skinner added.
Scott became unresponsive while being placed on the restraint bed at approximately 10:22 p.m., Skinner said, adding that he “immediately” received care but was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Skinner did not provide additional detail about the four-hour period Scott was in custody or the specific circumstances that led to his death. But in early April, he fired seven officers who he said “violated well-established Sheriff's Office policies and procedures” when handling Scott, and an eighth officer under investigation resigned.
“Everyone in Collin County deserves safe and fair treatment, including those in custody at our jail. I will not tolerate less,” Skinner said when announcing the firings. Six of the officers appealed their termination and one has since been reinstated, according to CBS Dallas-Fort Worth.
Scott's family viewed video footage of Scott's death on Wednesday. Family attorney Lee Merritt said the family viewed almost five hours of footage, adding that the footage showed “repeated opportunities” to provide aid to Scott, who he said “was clearly in a schizophrenic episode.”
“Instead, he received brutality,” Merritt said. “Instead, he was maced. He was assaulted, he was restrained, he was treated as someone who was being criminally non-compliant, not as someone in need of desperate help.”
Merritt said the sheriff's office had records of Scott's mental health issues. At the March 19 press conference, Skinner declined to comment on whether officers had known of a history of mental illness.
Scott's mother, LaSandra, described the footage as “Horrific, inhumane,” and “very disheartening.” The family has repeatedly called for the officers involved to be arrested.
“When I was watching this, I felt like I wanted to be there for him, but I couldn't. It was too late,” another family member said. “And we ask for justice because at this point that's all we can ask for.”
Skinner said in March that video of the incident has been shared with the Texas Rangers, the agency responsible for investigating the incident. The Rangers declined to comment further on the medical examiner's findings, citing the ongoing investigation. The Collin County Sheriff's office did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment.
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