On March 14, Marvin D. Scott III, a 26-year-old Black man, was arrested at a Texas mall for misdemeanor possession of marijuana—less than two ounces. A few hours later, Scott was dead inside of a Collins County, Texas, jail cell—restrained in a bed, with a spit hood over his face. Scott’s family has been demanding answers ever since, saying that their child was killed while being treated like a criminal during what has been described as a mental health emergency.
A couples of days after Scott’s death, Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner held a press conference saying that he had put “A captain, a lieutenant, two sergeants, and three detention officers on administrative leave,” while an investigation was being conducted. Skinner told reporters that his office was investigating the death, he was also “required” by law to hand over the official investigation to Texas Rangers.
On Thursday, seven Collin County, Texas, detention officers were fired, and one resigned, for their part in Scott’s death. A lawyer representing Scott’s family has called for the seven officers to face criminal charges in relation to the young man’s death. Skinner gave a statement to the Washington Post, saying “Evidence I have seen confirms that these detention officers violated well-established Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures. Everyone in Collin County deserves safe and fair treatment, including those in custody at our jail. I will not tolerate less.”
According to a statement released by the Allen Police Department Chief Brian Harvey, Scott was the subject of a “disturbance call” at the Allen Premium Outlets. Police officers “observed that Mr. Scott was acting in an erratic manner and were concerned for his safety due to the possible ingestion of drugs. They called for assistance from paramedics from Allen Fire Department. Mr. Scott was transported by ambulance to Texas Health Allen Hospital where he remained in the emergency room for approximately three hours.” After Scott was cleared by a physician at the emergency room, he was taken into custody and “processed at the Allen Police Headquarters holding facility and then transported and released to the custody of the Collin County Sheriff’s Office.”
“He was a gentle giant. He would do anything for anybody. Y’all really took away a good person—a really good person. He was amazing. I’m honored to be his sister.”
—LaChay Batts, Marvin Scott’s sister
News reports say that Scott spent three hours under emergency room observation before he was released into police custody. Then, according to Sheriff Skinner, at around 6:30 PM, while booking the 26-year-old Scott into jail, Scott “exhibited some strange behavior.” At this point, “Several detention officers tried to secure him to the restraint bed, and during the process used O.C. spray once, and also placed a spit mask on his face.” O.C. spray is more commonly referred to as pepper spray. Scott became unresponsive around 10:30 PM, according to the sheriff. The Dallas Morning News reports that Scott was pepper-sprayed during the initial restraint process. The spit hood was “was placed over Scott’s head at 10:22 p.m.”
The family lawyer, Lee Merritt, has told reporters that Scott had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was clearly having a mental health episode at the time of his arrest. His family says that the police in Collin County should have been well versed in Scott’s situation as he had a prior arrest history in the county and had been sent to a “behavioral center,” before by police for similar episodes.
Sheriff confirmed that there is video of the struggle in the jail between Scott and the officers fired. Merritt alleges that the video shows an “illegal choke hold,” being used on Scott during the event.
According to Merritt, Scott’s mother learned of her son’s death through a text message sent from the medical examiner’s office—hours after he had died. “There is a clear medical record for Marvin Scott. If they had just pulled up the medical record, they would have had all the information that they needed. It would’ve been a part of the arrest records. So we reject that excuse.”
Scott’s older sister LaChay Batts cried during the family’s press conference, saying “He was a gentle giant. He would do anything for anybody. Y’all really took away a good person—a really good person. He was amazing. I’m honored to be his sister.”
Scott’s death has stoked the justifiable outrage in Northern Texas communities who are no strangers to racism and the historic abuses of law enforcement on communities of color. Protesters closed down streets outside of the mall in Allen, Texas, where Scott was first taken into custody. Demands for justice in the Scott case has dogged the Collin County Sheriff’s office night and day.
The death of Scott comes less than a month after a grand jury voted not to indict New York cops who were accused of killing Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man who was similarly physically restrained on a snowbound street naked, while suffering a mental health episode in March of 2020.
The Scott family:
Collins County Sheriff Jim Skinner’s press conference: