The City Council on Tuesday night approved a $1.25 million settlement with the family of a 42-year-old man who died last year after he struggled with Arlington jailers and collapsed in his cell.
The council voted 9-0 without discussion, as part of the consent agenda, to approve the mediated settlement in the death of Jonathan Ryan Paul.
“The city of Arlington is pleased to have reached a mutually agreeable settlement with the Jonathan Paul estate,” the city said in a statement released early Tuesday. “Because of the ongoing criminal investigations, the city has no further comment on any claims of the estate at this time.”
Paul was arrested March 9 on outstanding warrants by Arlington officers responding to a disturbance call. He was taken to the city’s jail. He became disruptive at some point, and on March 10, physical restraints and pepper spray were used to subdue him, according to an autopsy report. He collapsed in his jail cell and was taken to Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. He died March 13 after his family removed life support.
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Physical restraints and the use of pepper spray played a significant role in Paul’s death, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office, which listed acute psychosis as a contributing factor. The ME’s report said that Paul’s psychosis would most likely have been treatable with a medical evaluation and care at a hospital.
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.
Marvin Phillips, one of Paul’s uncles, called the financial settlement “a slap on the hand.”
“Hopefully that will cause some changes in how they treat human beings,” Phillips said.
The parties met in “pre-suit mediation” in March and tentatively agreed to a full settlement of the claims, subject to City Council approval, according to a staff document. The settlement will be funded through the city’s self-insurance and risk management program.
“I’m glad the city came to an agreement,” said Thomas Kelly, a longtime friend. “But it was never about the money to me. It’s about justice. Somebody needs to account for this man, for a senseless death that didn’t have to happen.
“I’m afraid that nothing’s going to happen to anyone, and they’re going to brush it all under the table. That’s my biggest fear.”
Hopefully that will cause some changes in how they treat human beings.
Marvin Phillips, uncle of Jonathan Ryan Paul
Before the vote, Alisa Simmons, president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP, told the council that in cases like Paul’s, the NAACP will advocate for better initial screening and oversight during the jail booking process, restrained physical response and medical care throughout.
“The NAACP expects continued dialogue with the Arlington Police Department in order to examine and improve its protocols and training in situations involving African-Americans, in addition to people who suffer from mental illness,” Simmons said.
Two jailers — Pedro Medina and Steve Schmidt — were indicted on charges of criminally negligent homicide in Paul’s death.
The indictments say that Medina and Schmidt physically restrained Paul in a way that kept him from being able to breathe, used pepper spray excessively and neglected to provide or render timely medical assistance to Paul.
Trial dates for Medina, 33, and Schmidt, 57, have not been set.
Schmidt retired Oct. 22, 2015, after spending 10 years as a jailer. He was lead detention officer at the time of Paul’s death.
In addition to being indicted, Medina was fired along with two other jailers, Wes Allen and Matt Fisher.
“All three have requested arbitration,” city spokeswoman Susan Schrock said Tuesday. “The city is working with opposing counsel to get that scheduled.”
This report includes material from Star-Telegram archives.