Texas and the Death of Sgt. James Brown

The case involving the death of Sergeant James Brown and an El Paso, Texas county jail is over two years old, but the injustice appears to live on. Sgt. James Brown died after being held in police custody over a weekend after he turned himself in to serve a jail sentence for driving while intoxicated, according to his mother, Dinetta Scott. After video footage surfaced which showed Brown being beaten, restrained, and dosed with Haloperidol and Ativan, he reportedly died of “natural causes,”according to the jail report … that is, until the video brought to light the extremities Brown faced while in jail.

According to Scott, the abuse from authorities may have started when Brown was told his sentence in jail was going to be longer than expected. Brown had voluntarily checked into county jail with the awareness he would only have to serve two days. Later, Scott received a phone call from her son that authorities in the jail cell had told Brown he would have to serve a sentence of seven days. Brown had expressed he was active military and had to report to duty on Monday. It appears an incident escalated from there, with a swarm of officers in riot gear wrestling Brown to the ground afterward.

Video footage of the incident shows armed officers atop of Brown as he struggles and announces he cannot breathe. He begs for help, citing he is starting to choke on his own blood. From there, Brown is carried off to another area where he is restrained and has a mask put over his mouth. He is injected with substances, and according to the video footage, clearly shows discomfort with the mask on his face, stating he still cannot breathe. Again, he asks for help with moving the mask away from his nostrils and mouth, while officers are shown ignoring his request, stating he must first calm down. Later, Brown is again removed and transported back to his cell, reportedly without any clothing and left alone while his breathing appears to grow more shallow. Eventually, Brown is transported to a hospital in Texas where he is pronounced dead.

According to the news organization, Democracy Now,  an autopsy reports Brown died of natural causes involving a pre-existing medical condition. A report by the El Paso, Texas Sheriff’s office had also confirmed that after further review, Sgt. James Brown’s death was related to natural causes, including that involving Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD.) No further investigations were conducted until Brown’s family had found out about a video that was used to determine the cause of his death.

According to Scott, it took two and a half years for Brown’s family to finally obtain the video. Even then, she said she could not watch it in its entirety due to the suffering her son went through in begging for his life. She firmly believes her son died due to the treatment he underwent, and now Brown’s family is suing the County of El Paso, Texas for allegedly violating Brown’s constitutional rights. Not only that, but Scott has verbally expressed her search for justice through possible policy changes within the state of Texas. She stated she does not believe the incident was related to race, but instead, may have been due to her son’s role as an active military member.

So far, there is no report of any authorities being reprimanded for this incident, and with that, no accountability for what happened to Brown. Although reports indicate a natural cause may have been the reason Brown died, it is clear that the treatment he underwent in the jail facility could have been a major factor leading up to his death. Some may state that Brown clearly should have resisted aggravating officers in riot gear, but one might ask if that is also sufficient reasoning in preventing Brown from obtaining proper medical attention, or even assisting him with breathing difficulties.

Although the state of Texas is involved in the death of Sgt. James Brown, it is clear from protests going on all over the U.S. over police brutality that this is yet another incident involving how authorities use, or misuse their power. No one is really denying that police and correctional officers do not have one of the toughest jobs in the nation – if anything, they are recognized for it. However, the fact that an active military member died while being held in a Texas jail facility shows laws may be needed which holds authorities responsible for deaths resulting from unlimited, aggravated assault, or resistance in aiding someone with a medical need, not only in Texas, but possibly all over the entire U.S.

Opinion By: Liz Pimentel

DemocracyNow.org: Sgt. James Brown, 26, Survived Two Tours in Iraq Only to Die Begging for His Life in Texas Jail
Photo by LC Rogers Courtesy of Wikipedia – Creative Commons License

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