Two Arlington jailers who were on duty in March when an inmate collapsed in jail were indicted Monday by a Tarrant County grand jury on one charge each of criminally negligent homicide.
Physical restraints and the use of pepper spray played a significant role in the death of the inmate, Jonathan Ryan Paul, 42, according to an autopsy report released in June by the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.
The autopsy also concluded that jailers followed department protocol.
The jailers, employees of the Arlington Police Department, were identified as Pedro Medina, 33, and Steve Schmidt, 57.
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Medina, a jailer since 2012, has been on administrative leave with pay, the news release said. Schmidt retired Oct. 22 after 10 years as a jailer. He was a lead detention officer at the time of Paul’s death.
It was not clear from the police news release at what point during Paul’s jail stay that Medina and Schmidt were in contact with him.
Paul was arrested March 9 on outstanding warrants by Arlington officers who were responding to a disturbance call, according to earlier police reports. Paul was taken to the Arlington Jail. At some point he began to be disruptive. On March 10, physical restraints and pepper spray were used to subdue him, according to the autopsy report.
Seven jailers and two police officers appeared before the grand jury, which had access to more than 27 hours of video and also heard from members of Paul’s family, according to a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.
“As with all officer-involved fatality cases, [prosecutors] made no recommendation to the grand jury as to their findings,” her statement said.
Criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony.
Police officials expect to finish an administrative investigation in less than two weeks, and the result will be made public, the police news release said.
“This has been a difficult case for our community,” Police Chief Will Johnson said in the news release. “We promised a thorough and vigorous investigation into this matter. 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.”
Luis Bartolomei, the attorney representing Paul’s family, said he was going to meet with the family and watch the jail video with them Tuesday morning.
“We want to see the video,” he said. “We will watch the most important parts and then address our concerns.”
The family sued the city in federal court in May, saying that when Arlington officials became aware of Paul’s medical problems, they were deliberately indifferent to his needs and denied him the medical care that might have saved his life.
‘I am the lion king!’
The medical examiner’s office said that Paul died an “in-custody death with application of physical restraints” while listing acute psychosis as a contributing factor.
The cause of his death still has not been determined.
The autopsy report stated that Paul could be seen on video “undressing and dressing multiple times, washing his body with toilet water, pacing the cell and acting like he is shooting a gun. … He floods the cell with water and is noted to be howling and yelling, including, ‘I am the lion king!’ ”
Paul was pepper-sprayed again and forcibly removed from his cell by four jailers, the report stated.
After being restrained and handcuffed, Paul began struggling again, but a few minutes later, at 5:52 p.m., a jailer said that “Paul’s breathing is very shallow,” and 911 was called.
Arlington paramedics arrived about 6 p.m. and began treatment four minutes later but found no pulse, the report said. Eight minutes after paramedics arrived, Paul had a heart attack, but he was shocked once and a pulse was resumed about 6:20 p.m. At 6:33 p.m. Paul arrived at the Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital emergency room, the report said.
Shortly before 10 p.m. Paul was transferred to the hospital’s intensive-care unit and diagnosed with a kidney injury, respiratory failure, liver failure and a temperature of more than 103.
His family took him off life support March 13.
The case was presented to the grand jury by prosecutors Larry Moore and Tiffany Burks.
After the indictment was returned Monday, Medina and Schmidt surrendered at the Tarrant County Jail and were released on $5,000 bail each.