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Jail supervisor’s attorney says use of force necessary, full story not shared by sheriff

In World
June 10, 2024

The jail supervisor who was fired in connection to the Tarrant County Jail death of Anthony Johnson Jr. called for medical personnel less than a minute after realizing the inmate was unconscious, his attorney said in a news release Sunday.

Lt. Joel Garcia was fired and then reinstated and placed on administrative leave in connection to Johnson’s death. His reinstatement was likely in response to the sheriff’s office not following proper protocol in terminating him, his attorney Randy Moore previously told the Star-Telegram.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled on Friday that Johnson’s death was a homicide caused by mechanical and chemical asphyxiation. Partial videos released by the sheriff’s office shows a large jailer, identified as Rafael Moreno, put his knee on Johnson’s back after Johnson was on the ground, handcuffed.

In the partial video, Johnson can be heard struggling to breathe, choking and gagging. He’d already been pepper sprayed, handcuffed and laid face-down on the ground. The portion of the video released by the sheriff’s office ends after Moreno stands up, with Johnson not moving.

Moore, along with Johnson’s family and their attorney, said the rest of the video is vital to understanding the whole story.

Moore said “the use of force became necessary because of Johnson’s attack on detention officers,” adding “despite what you are being told, the tactics publicly stated as what should have been done, are not part of the use of force policy or training at Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office.”

The Star-Telegram has requested the full video, but the sheriff’s office has asked the Texas Attorney General’s Office for permission to withhold the recording, citing an ongoing investigation.

Garcia was there for less than 4 minutes before putting medical personnel in charge of Johnson’s control, Moore said in the news release. It was less than a minute after Johnson was found to be unresponsive that medical teams were called to take over his care.

That is in the portion of the videos not released, Moore said. Daryl Washington, the attorney representing Johnson’s family, said the rest of the video shows Johnson not getting the medical care he needed.

“They didn’t release the bad part,” Johnson’s mother, Jacqualyne Johnson, told the Star-Telegram.

Moore said that Garcia is not to blame for Johnson’s death.

“Garcia followed stated policy and practice in his limited involvement in this matter,” Moore said in the news release. “He is saddened by the outcome as well as the public persecution he has received prior to a complete investigation being conducted and release of the full video along with policies and training actually practiced at the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office.

Other supervisors were there before Garcia showed up and they were giving commands, Moore said in the release. It wasn’t until Johnson was unresponsive that Garcia took over, and he almost immediately called for medical personnel to meet him at the top of the stairs.

That contradicts what Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn told reporters at a news conference in May, when the partial video was released. Waybourn said Garcia made the decision to take Johnson down the stairs to medical instead of calling for medical personnel to meet them on the mezzanine where Johnson was.

Moore told the Star-Telegram the day the partial video was released that Garcia actually called for medical personnel to come up the stairs and handed over control. That’s something that is shown in the unreleased video, he said.

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