KFOX14 exclusive: video obtained of Fort Bliss soldier shows moments before his death while in custody
EL PASO, Texas - An active-duty Fort Bliss soldier self-reported for a two day DWI sentence at the El Paso County Jail in 2012 but died before he saw the light of day or his family again.
In July 2012, KFOX14 anchor Erika Castillo reported on the story of the mysterious circumstances surrounded the death of Sgt. James Brown while he was in jail.
KFOX14 fought all the way to the Texas attorney general to obtain the video to learn what happened to Brown before dying.
The graphic video obtained shows the moments before the death of Brown.
Brown served two tours of combat duty in Iraq. The decorated 26-year-old was on active duty at Fort bliss in July 2012, when he left his family for the weekend to self-report for a two day DWI sentence at the El Paso County Jail. When he checked in, jail records show that Brown reported in writing to the jail that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.
Brown's mother said when her son checked into the jail, he contacted her.
"He said they're trying to make me stay seven days instead of two days, so i just want to pay the court fine and get out of here," said Dinette Robinson-Scott.
Brown asked his mom to send the money to pay the fine in lieu of the jail time, which she did by the following morning. But by that time, something had gone terribly wrong.
The video shows at some point, Brown appeared to have an episode in his cell that caused him to bleed. It's not clear from where. When he refused to answer or speak to the jail guard, a team of guards in riot gear were brought in to storm his cell.
From beginning to the end of the recording, Brown stated he could not breathe.
By the end of the clip, Brown's physical condition appears to deteriorate, showing shallow breathing and no longer blinking or being responsive. Brown appears to no longer be capable of pleading for anything. Attorneys say at no time was an ambulance or 911 called for help.
Brown's mother, Dinetta Robinson-Scott, released the following statement to KFOX14:
"I pray that new laws protecting soldiers in custody will be implemented, that the military adopt new policy procedures in regards to their soldiers being held in custody by an outside agency. If these changes can be made and our soldiers are protected, and another family never has to experience what my family has, then my son's death would not been in vain."
Browns mother turned to KFOX14 and said she wants Americans to see the video and see exactly what happened to her son in El Paso County Detention Center.
Brown was placed on a gurney and wheeled out of the jail and taken to University Medical Center where he was officially pronounced dead.
Brown family attorneys Jason Bowles and B.J. Crow said the video shows a gross violation of Brown's constitutional rights.
"When a 26-year-old man checks into jail for a court imposed sentence on a Friday, and he leaves Sunday in a casket, something went horribly wrong there," said Crow.
Brown had no criminal record, and toxicology tests showed no illegal drugs in his body.
The autopsy results cited natural causes by sickle cell crisis.
The El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles issues a statement, released to KFOX14, agreeing with the autopsy.
"Mr. Brown's death was an unfortunate tragedy. The sheriff's office has conducted a thorough review of the facts surrounding Mr. Brown's death and, based upon all the evidence obtained, determined that his death was caused by a pre-existing medical condition. The specific evidence cannot be discussed because of pending litigation."
Medical studies show sickle crisis lies dormant until it is triggered by dehydration and stress.
Brown's attorney said apparently more stress than can be triggered by coming under fire in combat twice, which Brown did.
His family said Brown showed no history of ever having a sickle cell crisis incident in his life and is convinced the medical episode was triggered by his treatment at the jail.
"He was bleeding out the ears, the nose, the mouth, his kidney's shut down, his blood pressure dropped to a very dangerous level, and his liver shut down," said Crow.
Brown's story is a federal civil trial that is expected to go to court in October.
His family is suing for damages, claiming violation of the American with Civil Liberties Act because of Brown's PTSD, excessive force, and lack of proper medical attention.