An inmate in his 50s, booked into the Bexar County jail earlier this year to serve out his sentence on DWI and parole violations, was found unresponsive inside his cell Sunday afternoon.
While officials have yet to determine an exact cause of death or even publicly identify the man, the Bexar County Sheriff's Office has already put out a statement saying "a preliminary investigation indicates the man may have committed suicide."
Last year, 34 inmates committed suicide in county jails across the state, including three in Bexar County. Following Sandra Bland's death in a Waller County jail cell, state regulators and lawmakers increased efforts to screen for potentially suicidal inmates, including a revised mental health screening tool that jails started using last December. While the cause isn't entirely clear, suicides in county jails have since fallen to 14 so far this year, compared to last year's record 34 suicides in county jails.
But while in-custody suicides have dipped across the state
, Bexar County seems to be bucking that trend.
In 2015, the local jail saw a total of three suicides. But for the first six months of 2016, the jail hadn't seen any – that is, until this summer, when four inmates killed themselves in as many weeks.
That included the hanging deaths of 40-year-old Victor Casas, who was locked up on a year-old assault charge, and 22-year-old Jonathan Campos, who was arrested for the June 1 death of a 7-year-old girl who, who according to police, was shot in the head near a Westside park after a fight between men playing basketball ended in gunfire.
Following the series of suicides this summer, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards conducted a surprise inspection at the jail but concluded that there were "no violations of minimum jail standards." The commission also acknowledged, "Any suicide is cause for concern and we understand the perception that accompanies these unfortunate events, especially when they occur in such quick succession." (We've asked state and local officials for comment on the most recent death, and will update if we get responses.)
If Sunday's death at the jail is ultimately ruled a suicide, the man would be at least the fifth person to take his own life inside the Bexar County lockup this year.