- 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)
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)
COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open
While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.
Schools Respond to Omicron Surge
U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.
According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.
That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.
Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.
In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.
Teachers Protest In-Person Learning
Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.
One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).
Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.
On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.
Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”
Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.
On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.