Two officers indicted in death of man held in Texas jail

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 24, 2015 12:21 AM

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) - A North Texas grand jury indicted two detention officers on Monday in connection with the March death of an inmate at Arlington City Jail, according to prosecutors.

Pedro Medina, 33, and Stephen Schmidt, 57, are charged with negligent criminal homicide over the death of Jonathan Paul, 42, who was found unresponsive in his cell on March 10, a day after his arrest by police. He died three days later, police said.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner ruled Paul's cause of death as "in-custody death with application of physical restraints,” with "acute psychosis” as a significant contributing factor.

Police in Arlington, west of Dallas, said Medina has been placed on paid administrative leave. Schmidt retired last month after 10 years as a jail operator.

Both men turned themselves in to authorities on Monday and each posted a $5,000 bond, according to the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office.

Robert Rogers, the attorney for the officers, told the Dallas Morning News that the indictment of Medina and Schmidt "should send a chill down the spine of every honest, hard-working law enforcement officer."

He said both officers, as well as others on duty, had attempted to help Paul, who was in the midst of a "drug-induced psychotic episode." The officers "acted completely within the training and accepted practices of the Arlington Police Department," he told the newspaper.

Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson said in a statement the case has been difficult for the community.

“Now that the Grand Jury proceeding has concluded, we are eager to finalize the administrative case and present the findings of the investigation to the family and our community,” he said.

Police said officers responded to a disturbance call in March and found Paul screaming and throwing items out of an upstairs window at an apartment complex. He was arrested after officers discovered he had outstanding warrants.

Paul’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against the city of Arlington and the police department in May, alleging the jailers used excessive force to restrain him.

(Editing by Victoria Cavaliere and Paul Tait)