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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has recently opened an investigation into allegations of federal rights violations following the deaths of two inmates at the Harris County Jail in Texas. This move comes after a request was made by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Texas. Jaquaree Simmons died in February 2021, and Jacoby Pillow died in January 2023, while they were in custody at the Harris County Jail.
According to sources, the investigations will be impartial, thorough, and fair and will be independent of any state investigations concerning the jail incidents. To maintain the integrity of the investigations, the FBI’s Houston branch has stated that no details about the ongoing process will be shared publicly.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez had approached the FBI to investigate the deaths of the inmates. Gonzalez said in a statement that he reached out to the James Smith, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Houston Field Office, last week to have his agents review the circumstances surrounding the two inmates’ deaths at the jail. Gonzalez said he wanted the community to fully trust his department’s commitment to transparency and full accountability.
“I look forward to learning the FBI’s findings, because we must all know the full truth if we are to improve our operation and make the jail as safe as possible for everyone entrusted into our care,” said Gonzalez in his statement.
Ben Crump and Paul Grinke, two attorneys, held a press conference in Houston, where they requested the Department of Justice open an investigation into the matter. According to Crump, it is appalling that 32 detainees died in the Harris County Jail in a 14-month period. He stated during the conference that no one would believe it if not for the bodies that showed the reality of the situation.
Court records show that 21 inmates died in custody in 2021, and according to the attorneys, at least 28 inmates lost their lives in the Harris County Jail last year. Moreover, the press release reveals that the total number of deaths in 2023 is “at least four.”
Jacoby Pillow, 31, was arrested on New Year’s Day for trespassing, a misdemeanor. He was in the process of being released from Harris County Jail on a $100 bond early the next day but had an altercation with officers, resulting in additional charges. Officials used force to restrain Pillow, and he was evaluated and returned to his cell. Pillow was found unresponsive in his cell on Jan. 3 and later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
“We have credible reason to believe that Jacoby Pillow died from compression asphyxia from being restrained, similar to George Floyd,” Grinke said during the press conference. “We have also credible reasons to believe that there will be evidence that he was beaten multiple times by correctional officers.”
The jail’s statement about Pillow’s death is that it is currently under “pending investigation.” Pillow’s younger sister, Ariana Pillow, is a former employee of Harris County and accounted for her experience relating to the situation during the press conference. She said she had seen correctional staff mistreat detainees because they were in need of insulin for diabetes or other medical issues, and she had seen them being the reason for altercations taking place between them and detainees.
Crump is representing the families of Pillow and other families of those who have died in the jail: Gary and Kevin Smith Jr., an uncle and nephew who died in jail last month, and Kristan Nicole Smith, who died last May. However, Crump is not publicly representing the family of Simmons, the other subject of the FBI’s investigation.
Jaquaree Simmons, 23, was arrested and put in jail on Feb. 10, 2021, and died
while in custody a week later. The circumstances surrounding Simmons’ death are still unclear, but his family members have alleged that he was neglected by the jail staff. They also claim that he did not receive proper medical attention for his injuries, and his death could have been prevented.
Simmons’ family has been pushing for answers since his death, and they hope that the FBI’s investigation will shed light on what really happened. They believe that Simmons was a victim of police brutality and that the jail staff failed to provide him with the necessary medical care.
The Harris County Jail has a long history of complaints of mistreatment and inadequate medical care for inmates. The allegations against the jail have been going on for years, with many people coming forward to share their experiences of mistreatment and neglect.
The investigation by the FBI into the deaths of two inmates at the Harris County Jail is a significant development. It shows that there is a growing concern about the treatment of inmates in the jail and the need for more transparency and accountability.
It remains to be seen what the FBI’s investigation will reveal, but it is clear that there are serious issues that need to be addressed. The families of the deceased inmates and their attorneys hope that the investigation will lead to justice and accountability for the victims.