Jail Inmate Dies a Day After Being Struck by Detention Officer

An inmate has died after being found unresponsive in his jail cell in Houston, Texas. He had been struck by a detention officer during a fight the previous day.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office said a detention officer reported an inmate had attacked him inside the Harris County Jail, located at 701 San Jacinto Street, at around 6.45 p.m. on Tuesday.

"The Detention Officer reported that he struck the defendant, a man in his early 20s, in self defense, causing the defendant to fall to the floor," the sheriff's office wrote in a thread on Twitter.

The inmate was taken to the medical clinic at the jail, the sheriff's office said. He returned to his cell after being evaluated by staff.

We respect the sanctity of every life and we will make sure this loss of life is fully investigated. https://t.co/kePir0egZ6

— Ed Gonzalez (@SheriffEd_HCSO) February 17, 2021

But on Wednesday afternoon, the inmate was found unresponsive in his cell, the sheriff's office said. He was transported to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead at around 1.30 p.m.

A cause of death was not immediately clear and will be determined by an autopsy.

The Houston Police Department will investigate the incident, the sheriff's office said, as required by state law.

The sheriff's office didn't release the inmate's name or any other details.

"Our sincere condolences go out to the person's loved ones," the sheriff's office wrote on Twitter.

"We respect the sanctity of every life and we will make sure this loss of life is fully investigated," Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez added in a tweet.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office and the Houston Police Department have been contacted for additional comment.

The incident comes after The Houston Chronicle reported thousands of vulnerable people—who are presumed innocent and eligible for bail—are stuck in the Harris County Jail amid the COVID-19 pandemic simply because they can't afford bail, according to civil rights lawyers.

Lawyers for the inmates say the actions of officials demonstrate "deep indifference to human suffering and illness." They cited 64-year-old Preston Chaney, an inmate who died of COVID-19 after more than three months in the jail awaiting trial on allegations he stole some frozen meat and lawn equipment because he couldn't afford a $100 bond.

In response, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted that while his department doesn't run any jails, he would look into the matter.

"No one is supposed to be in jail for failing to pay a $100 bond on a non violent offense. I will report back what I find," Acevedo wrote.

Stock photo prison cell
Stock photo. An inmate at the Harris County Jail in Houston, Texas was found unresponsive in his cell on Wednesday. Getty