- A Texas Sheriff announced Thursday that he fired seven detention officers on March 14, the same day they were involved in the in-custody death of a Black inmate who was being held on misdemeanor charges for marijuana. An eighth officer has also since resigned.
- Officers said the inmate, 26-year-old Marvin D. Scott III, began to “exhibit some strange behavior” in his cell, so they reportedly secured him to a restraint bed and pepper-sprayed him while trying to apply a spit hood.
- Scott eventually lost consciousness and was pronounced dead after being rushed to the hospital, and his family claims he may have been experiencing a mental crisis related to his schizophrenia.
- Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner said the officers violated well-established policies and procedures, adding, “Everyone in Collin County deserves safe and fair treatment, including those in custody at our jail. I will not tolerate less.”
Seven detention officers at a Texas jail have been fired over the in-custody death of a Black inmate who may have been experiencing a mental health crisis while being held on misdemeanor drug charges.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon announcing the terminations, Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner also said an eighth officer who was under investigation for the death has resigned.
“Evidence I have seen confirms that these detention officers violated well-established Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures,” Skinner said. “Everyone in Collin County deserves safe and fair treatment, including those in custody at our jail. I will not tolerate less.”
Skinner stressed that a criminal investigation into the inmate’s death “continues.”
The Death of Marvin D. Scott III
That inmate, 26-year-old Marvin D. Scott III, died on March 14 hours after being arrested by officers at an outlet mall in Frisco, Texas.
The situation began when the Allen Police Department said it responded to the scene because of reports that a man, later identified as Scott, was “acting in an erratic manner.” In a statement, officers noted that they “were concerned for his safety due to the possible ingestion of drugs.”
They then called paramedics to the scene for assistance, and Scott was rushed to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Allen, where he remained for the next three hours. After being discharged, Scott was processed at the Allen Police Headquarters holding facility but then transferred to the Collin County Sheriff’s Office.
According to Collin County sheriff’s Capt. Nick Bristow, Scott was charged with possession of fewer than two ounces of marijuana, which is a misdemeanor in the state.
Later that day, detention officers said Scott began to “exhibit some strange behavior.” That “behavior” then prompted officers to lock Scott onto a restraint bed, where they proceeded to pepper-spray him while trying to attach a spit hood. During the struggle, Scott because unresponsive, and as a result, was rushed back to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Sheriff Skinner said he fired seven of the detention officers involved on that same day.
The Investigation Into Scott’s Death
An independent autopsy later determined that Scott’s death was likely caused by restraint and asphyxiation. Notably, spit hoods have been linked to multiple deaths and have become increasingly controversial over the past year, especially following the in-custody suffocation of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, last March.
Within the next several weeks, the office of the Collin County Medical Examiner is expected to release a second autopsy report.
According to his mother, Scott was diagnosed with schizophrenia two years ago.
While she told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth that he hadn’t an episode in about a year, she added, “When we got him okay with his medication, he was starting to take them and fell off and felt like if he would use marijuana, it would benefit him more.”
Lee Merritt, the family’s lawyer, has accused police of jailing Marvin for marijuana charges because he was Black and for viewing him as a criminal rather than someone experiencing a mental health crisis.
Now, the family is calling for the officers involved in Scott’s death to be arrested. They’re also seeking answers to the questions of why Scott was discharged from the hospital, if life-saving interventions could have been employed while he was being restrained, and if the officers involved had mental health training.
Scott’s death has spurred protests outside the Collin County jail.
See what others are saying: (NBC Dallas-Fort Worth) (ABC News) (CBS News)
U.S. Pledges To Donate 500 Million More Vaccines Globally
The announcement comes as wealthy nations face pressure to help lower-income countries deal with the pandemic and as American vaccine makers face calls to share their technology.
Biden Promises More Vaccines
President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. will purchase 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for countries in need, bringing the total number of U.S. vaccine donations to more than 1.1 billion.
Biden’s pledge, which was made at a virtual COVID-19 summit, comes as world leaders and organizations have criticized wealthy nations for not doing enough to help lower-income countries deal with the pandemic. Many have also slammed countries like the U.S. for moving forward with plans for booster shots while so much of the world remains unvaccinated.
According to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project, of the six billion shots administered globally, nearly 80% percent have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries compared to just 0.5% in low-income countries.
While several wealthy nations begin to give booster shots, just 2% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.
Pressure Grows for American Companies to Share Vaccine Technology
It’s not just wealthy countries and their leaders that are being met with criticism over the massive vaccination gap. There is also a lot of growing pressure on American drug companies to share their formulas with manufacturers in poor nations that need more doses.
Senior officials told The New York Times that the Biden administration privately asked Pfizer and Moderna to engage in joint ventures where they license their technology to contract manufacturers in an effort to provide vaccines to low- and middle-income nations.
While those conversations reportedly prompted Pfizer to sell the U.S. the 500 million doses announced this Wednesday at a not-for-profit price, the company still refused to license its technology.
Meanwhile, the alleged discussions appear to have had no impact at all on Moderna.
Many have argued the Moderna has even more of an obligation to share its technology given that it was developed in part by the National Institutes of Health. On top of that, the company accepted an additional $2.5 billion in taxpayer money as part of Operation Warp Speed.
In a statement to The Times on Tuesday, a Moderna spokeswoman said that the company had agreed not to enforce its COVID-related patents and was “willing to license our intellectual property for Covid-19 vaccines to others for the post pandemic period.”
But experts say that vaccine technology is needed now, not when the pandemic is over.
Many have argued that Biden should put more pressure on the companies to share their intellectual property, including some legal experts who said he could compel them to do so using the Defense Production Act, which gives the president broad emergency powers.
Administration officials, however, have argued that forcing the companies to share the information is more complicated, and any efforts to do so would result in legal battles that will ultimately be counterproductive.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Wall Street Journal)
Texas Doctor Says He Violated Abortion Law, Opening Matter Up for Litigation
Under the state’s new law, any citizen could sue the doctor, which would make the matter the first known test case of the restrictive policy.
Dr. Braid’s Op-Ed
A Texas doctor revealed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Saturday that he performed an abortion in violation of the state’s law that bans the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not have exceptions for rape and incest, also allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone receive an abortion after six weeks.
In the op-ed, Dr. Alan Braid, who has been practicing as an OB/GYN in Texas for 45 years, said that just days after the law took effect, he gave an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but already beyond the state’s new limit.
“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” he wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
Braid went on to say that he understands he is taking a personal risk but that he believes it is worth it.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” he concluded. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
If someone does opt to sue Braid over this matter, he could potentially be the state’s first test case in playing out the legal process. However, it is unclear if anti-abortion groups will follow through, despite their threats to enforce the law.
A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, which set up a website to report people suspected of violating the ban, told reporters this weekend that it is looking into Braid’s claims but added, “It definitely seems like a legal stunt and we are looking into whether it is more than that.”
Even if abortion opponents hold off on Braid’s case, there are other legal challenges to the Texas law.
Shortly after the policy took effect, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit attempting to stop it. Last week, the department filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge in the state to temporarily block the ban while that legal battle plays out, with a hearing for that motion set for Oct. 1.
Regardless of what side the federal judge rules for, the other is all but ensured to sue, and that fight could take the question to the Supreme Court in a matter of months.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Texas Tribune) (The Wall Street Journal)
Pfizer Says Low Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective in Kids 5 to 11
Pfizer Says Kids’ Vaccine Works
Pfizer announced Monday morning that its joint COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech is safe and effective in kids ages 5 to 11.
While Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for younger children is the same version the FDA has already approved for people 12 and older, the children’s dose is only one-third of the amount given to adults and teens. Still, Pfizer said the antibody response they’ve seen in kids has been comparable to the response seen in older participants.
Similarly, the company said side effects in children have been similar to those witnessed in adults.
Pfizer said it expects to finish submitting data, which still needs to be peer-reviewed and then published, to the FDA by the end of the month. From there, the agency will ensure that Pfizer’s findings are accurate and that the vaccine will be able to elicit a strong immune response in kids at its current one-third dosage.
That process could take weeks or even all of October, but it does open the possibility that the vaccine candidate could be approved around Halloween.
While experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called Pfizer’s announcement largely predictable, they’ve also urged people to let the research run its course.
With cases among children skyrocketing in recent months, some parents have begun urging pediatricians to give their children the jab early. Those kinds of requests are likely to increase with Pfizer’s announcement; however, officials have warned parents about acting too quickly.
“No one should really be freelancing — they should wait for the appropriate approval and recommendations to decide how best to manage their own children’s circumstances,” Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said according to The Washington Post.