Mysterious Death in Texas Jail Under Investigation

AP Photo
AP Photo

A Bexar County, Texas, inmate has been found dead in his jail cell. The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of the inmate in the Bexar County Adult Detention Center.

Armando Luna was discovered in his cell and officials were not able to revive him. The 58-year-old man had been ill and there were no signs of trauma, as reported by the San Antonio Express.

James Keith with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office said they believe Luna died of natural causes, reported the ABC affiliate in San Antonio.

The Bexar Medical Examiner’s Office will work to determine the cause of death.

Luna’s death comes after officials in the state have looked into procedures used in Texas jails.

Although nothing indicates that Luna died from anything but natural causes, 140 people committed suicide in Texas county jails over the past five years. Twenty-one people killed themselves in municipal jails, as reported by Breitbart Texas. This number does not include suicides committed in state and federal prisons in Texas.

Since the Texas Commission on Jail Standards began keeping records in 2009, 24 of the 140 suicide victims were located in county jails in the greater Houston area and surrounding counties.

The Waller County jail, where Bland killed herself, was not cited by the regulatory jail standards commission. While the commission did state there were several “red flags,” the commission concluded the jailers were not at fault because they filled out the intake evaluation form completely, as reported by Breitbart Texas. The jail did fail to document the training of its personnel, and the jailers did not perform hourly face-to-face observations of Bland.

The case of Sandra Bland, the black woman who was arrested in Waller County, Texas, and then hung herself with a plastic bag in the jail, has captured national attention. As Bland’s autopsy reports were being announced in Waller County, the Texas House County Affairs Committee announced it would hold hearings on jail standards in Texas, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

In July, the Texas House Committee on County Affairs held a hearing in the State Capitol to question law enforcement and jail officials about jail standards in the state. They also questioned them about procedures for dealing with potentially mentally ill people in county jails. Breitbart Texas reported from the Texas Capitol on the day of the hearing.

In October, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards issued a new mental health questionnaire form for jails to use when an inmate is being admitted in intake. As reported by Houston Public, the commission’s executive director, Brandon Wood said, “If a jailer or whoever is conducting the screening receives a positive or a ‘yes’ response to the questions, it requires them to notify certain entities whether it be a magistrate, supervisor, medical or mental health.”

The form includes questions designed to determine an inmate’s mental health history and whether they experience suicidal thoughts.

Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as an associate judge and prosecutor. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2


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