FBI Launches Investigation Into Series Of Deaths At Texas Jail

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The FBI has launched an investigation into a series of deaths at a Texas jail following a request from the Harris County Sheriff’s office.

“Last week, I reached out to James Smith, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Houston Field Office, to have his agents review the circumstances surrounding two men’s deaths in our jail because I want our community to fully trust our commitment to transparency and full accountability,” a statement released Monday by Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez reads.

The FBI will specifically be investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Jaquaree Simmons and Jacoby Pillow, two inmates who died in custody at the Harris County Jail following an altercation with staff, the sheriff’s statement continues. (RELATED: REPORT: Two Inmates  Found Dead In Different Cells In Less Than 24 Hours)

An internal investigation into Simmons’ death performed by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) revealed “multiple violations” by jail staff and ultimately led Gonzalez to suspend six employees and terminate 11 others in May 2021. In addition, a criminal investigation led to the indictment of former detention officer Eric Niles Morales for manslaughter, according to the statement.

Police restrained Pillow after he was accused of assaulting an officer while in the process of being released on a $100 bond for a trespassing charge, Fox 26 reported. Pillow was evaluated by the medical team and then returned to his cell, where he was reportedly found unresponsive the next morning. After being transported to a local hospital, Pillow was pronounced dead, according to the sheriff’s statement.

“The facts of this case are extremely alarming, and they point to a pattern and culture of inmate abuse that we have seen before in Harris County facilities. There is no legitimate excuse for this young man to have lost his life for an arrest on a misdemeanor charge right as he was about to get out on bail,” Ben Crump, attorney for the Pillow family, told Fox 26. “We need the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to be completely transparent with the Pillow family as they search for the details of what happened to Jacoby that night and why he didn’t make it out of jail alive.”

Pillow’s cause of death is still pending and being investigated by the Houston Police Department, according to the release from the HCSO.

Since Pillow’s death in January, three other inmates have died at the facility and, in 2022, 27 inmates died in custody at the jail, The Texas Tribune reported.

“These investigations will be fair, thorough and impartial and will proceed independently of any state investigations involving incidents at the jail,” the FBI office in Houston tweeted.

“I look forward to learning the FBI’s findings, because we must all know the full truth if we are to improve our operation and make the jail as safe as possible for everyone entrusted into our care,” Gonzalez concluded in his statement.