On a rainy Wednesday, the family of Marvin Scott III finally saw the video. The nearly five hours of footage showed the death of their loved one while in custody at the Collin County Jail.
They knew the video wouldn’t be pleasant, but it was still a “very, very difficult day,” said Scott’s father, Marvin Scott Jr., at a news conference that afternoon.
That same day, the Collin County Medical Examiner’s Office announced Scott’s cause of death was “fatal acute stress response.” It was ruled a homicide.
“I feel that justice has to be served. It has to be,” Scott’s father said, standing in the Collin County Courthouse lobby. “I feel that the officers involved have to be arrested. … We demand that.”
Although Scott’s family was allowed to view the footage leading up to Scott’s death, it has not yet been publicly released. The family and their supporters are calling for the arrest of the officers involved.
Following Scott’s death, seven officers were fired for violating “well-established Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures,” according to a news release. Another officer resigned.
Six of the jailers filed appeals, and on Friday, one was reinstated. But Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner disagreed with that decision and is “considering his options before the full Civil Service Commission,” according to the release.
Scott died in police custody last month after he was picked up outside an Allen outlet mall on a marijuana possession charge. The family’s attorney, Lee Merritt, said Scott was diagnosed as having schizophrenia and was undergoing a mental health crisis at the time.
“We believe that [Scott] was killed not only despite of the fact that he was schizophrenic — Marvin Scott was killed because he was schizophrenic and suffering a mental health episode,” Merritt said.
Instead of helping Scott to a facility to be treated, he was “brutalized” and sprayed with mace, Merritt said.
Scott had been pepper-sprayed and placed on a restraint bed after jailers noticed him acting strangely, according to law enforcement. He became unresponsive sometime after officers put a spit hood over his head, and he was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Merritt said the video showed several officers kneeling on Scott. Although there was no audio to accompany the footage, it was clear that Scott was in distress, Merritt said.
Watching the video was emotionally draining, he added. It was hard for the family to see several men, whose salaries they help pay for with their taxes, kill their son.
Merritt insisted there’s more than enough probable cause for Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis to immediately issue arrest warrants for all the men involved. The family expects "full prosecutions," he added.
Despite mounting public pressure to arrest the officers, no charges have been filed so far. Following a records request for Scott’s arrest affidavit made by the Observer last month, a contract attorney representing the city of Allen asked the Attorney General’s Office to prevent its release.
On Wednesday, the Observer requested the video as well as the names of the eight officers, from the Collin County sheriff’s office and the Texas Rangers, but had not heard back by publication time.
McKinney activist Courtney Brooks has attended many of the protests demanding justice for Scott. She showed up to Wednesday's news conference to support his family, whom she describes as “the nicest people.”
“I want all of the involved officers charged, and I want them charged for exactly what they did,” Brooks said. “I want murder charges on them, because what they did to this young man is murder.”
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.