Standing in the lobby of Collin County Courthouse, LaSandra Scott didn’t hold anything back. Her son Marvin Scott III had been “killed by his jailers,” she said. “They smothered him to death.”
For months, Collin County officials had refused to release the video of her son’s death in custody. But on Friday, the video was made public, weeks after a grand jury decided to not charge the correctional officers who restrained and maced the 26-year-old Black man in the moments before he died.
Some 120 days have passed since his death on Mar. 14, but the Scott family struggled to hold back tears during a press conference on Monday. For her part, Scott didn’t sugarcoat her response when asked how her family was holding up. “We’re not doing good,” she said. “It feels like a bad dream.”
Police officers had picked him up for marijuana possession outside a shopping outlet in Allen, and as his jailers restrained him, he suffered a mental health crisis.
The Collin County Medical Examiner’s office later ruled it a homicide caused by “fatal acute stress response in an individual with previously diagnosed schizophrenia during restraint struggle with law enforcement.”
“Instead of acting with compassion, instead of having a mental health professional speak to him in the jail, he was dealt with brutality and treated violently,'' Lee Merritt, the family’s attorney, said during the press conference.
Since his death, protesters have rallied in Plano, Allen and elsewhere, demanding that the officers involved be charged. But their protests have met backlash. In May, during a march in Plano, an angry motorist burst from his car and aggressively confronted demonstrators, swatting at one woman’s phone. He’s since been charged with assault.
At a protest in Allen last month, right-wing counter-demonstrators showed up, armed and clad in military-like gear. They accused those who had come out to rally for Marvin Scott III of seeking to “burn down” the city.
“But the statute allows for the sheriff’s office to release the video at the completion of their investigation,” Merritt said. “Sheriff Skinner agreed that he would, so he did.”
But not everything has been made public. The Allen Police Department still hasn’t released bodycam footage of their interactions with Marvin. “Allen PD and their behavior need to be reviewed,” Merritt told the conference. “They’ve blocked the release of that video.”
Allen PD didn't respond to a request for comment.
Merritt insisted that throughout the two hours of Marvin’s time in custody, the authorities missed several opportunities to change course and deal with his mental health crisis. As the video progresses, the attorney added, “We see him slowly deteriorate.”
Meanwhile, Merritt said, the Attorney General’s Office has also blocked the release of crucial information, such as the autopsy report, and that they intend to seek more information through the power of subpoena once they file a civil suit.
Both Merritt and LaSandra Scott say something has gone wrong in the course of the investigation and grand jury process, even if don't know what exactly was presented during the sealed proceedings.
“The grand jury invited the family to a review,” Merritt said. “They didn’t give us exact parameters, but they understand something has gone horribly wrong.”
LaSandra, though, didn’t mince words. “When the jury does not see what’s happened here as a crime, something’s wrong with the system,” she said. “I don’t believe there was enough evidence presented at the grand jury. Even a child could see this was a horror movie.”
But they’re not ready to give up on the case. As the press conference came to an end, Merritt and the Scott family walked into the Collin County Courthouse. “We’re going to meet with the prosecutors to discuss the review,” Merritt said.
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