Bexar County officials allege a detention officer tampered with jail records to make it falsely appear he conducted mandatory cell checks the night an inmate died on his unit.
The Bexar County District Attorney's office is currently reviewing charges that former jailer Ernesto Flores tampered with official government documents, a third degree felony, according to first assistant district attorney Cliff Herberg. The DA's office plans to take the case to a grand jury to seek an indictment, Herberg said. He wouldn't comment on when that might happen.
Records show Flores was on duty the night of August 21, 2012, when Thomas Reed Taylor, 30, turned himself into the Bexar County jail for active misdemeanor warrants, including drunk driving and drug possession. According to an incident report, guards removed Taylor from a general holding cell and placed him in isolation after he called a guard a "fat fuck."
Guards found Taylor lying facedown in his cell two hours after he was put in isolation, according to the report. He was pronounced dead nearly seven hours after he turned himself in.
“They are supposed to do these checks to physically view defendants that are in certain areas in lockup,” Herberg said. “The allegations are that he (Flores) did not do that, but was tampering with the record to show that he did do that.” Jailers are required to check on isolated inmates every 30 minutes. An incident report says Flores checked on Taylor 15 minutes before guards found him dead in his cell.
Flores couldn't be reached for comment.
A medical examiner's report shows that Taylor, who had a history of drug addiction, died in his cell from “combined effects of methadone toxicity and cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart).”
Paul Berry, a sheriff's department spokesman, said Flores, who was hired in 2001, was placed on administrative leave “immediately after the allegations were made.” Flores was fired March 12, when the department finished its internal investigation, Berry said.
Berry stressed that newly-sworn Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, who was elected months office after Taylor's death, has pushed to improve conditions, management, and operations at the jail. Berry pointed to a surprise Texas Commission on Jail Standards inspection last month that showed the best results the jail has seen in 10 years.
“We are constantly stressing to our detention officers the importance of observation checks on inmates,” Berry wrote in an email. “For those detention officers who are found to not follow any required procedure, such as observation checks, or show any lack of integrity in their work, there will be disciplinary action, up to termination.”
Tonie Taylor Grindle, Taylor's sister, contends her brother would have been given immediate medical attention had guards been making the required checks the night he died.
“To me, this means his death could have been prevented,” Grindle told the Current. “It makes me furious.”