Marvin Scott’s Family Holds Nightly Jail Protests Over His Deathavril 6, 2021
A few days after Marvin D. Scott III died in the custody of detention officers in Collin County, Texas, members of his family and community gathered outside the county jail on the northern outskirts of McKinney, a suburb of Dallas.
They were demonstrating to demand transparency from county officials. They wanted to learn how Mr. Scott had died in the hours after he was arrested on March 14, and they wanted the officers who restrained him that night to be held accountable.
Three weeks have passed since the protests began, and demonstrators have not missed a night yet. “I made a vow to myself that I would be out there every single night until they arrest these officers,” said Mr. Scott’s sister, LaChay Batts, 28.
Mr. Scott, a 26-year-old Black man who lived in Frisco, Texas, was arrested in the nearby city of Allen on a marijuana possession charge on March 14. He had less than two ounces of the drug, according to the authorities — a misdemeanor.
The police said they had taken Mr. Scott to a hospital because he was acting erratically. He was then taken to the county jail, where county officers restrained him and used pepper spray on him. A spit hood was placed over his head.
Mr. Scott died later that night, but the family did not learn about it until the afternoon of the next day, according to Ms. Batts.
Mr. Scott was a “gentle giant,” Ms. Batts said. “You had no choice but to be happy when you were around him,” she said, “because he was such a good, pure spirit.”
Episodes of schizophrenia had brought Mr. Scott into contact with law enforcement a few times before, Ms. Batts said, and officers usually took him to facilities that specialized in mental health.
But after police officers in Allen encountered him while responding to a call at an outlet mall last month, they took Mr. Scott to a hospital, where he stayed for a few hours before he a physician discharged him.
He was then taken to the county jail in McKinney, where he was restrained, pepper-sprayed once and placed in a spit hood, according to county officials. After he became unresponsive around 10:30 p.m., Mr. Scott was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.
In the weeks since, Ms. Batts and other demonstrators — typically numbering in the dozens, though attendance has been gradually shrinking — have gathered outside the county jail, usually from 9 p.m. to near midnight.
Alejandra Bernal, 18, a high school student in Collin County who has attended the demonstrations since they began, said the protests could cease if the family’s demands, which include arresting the officers involved, were met. Until then, she said, “we’re not planning on moving.”
The demonstrators have sometimes positioned themselves to obstruct vehicles taking prisoners into the jail, Ms. Bernal said. They have taken posters and chanted into megaphones. They have arranged plastic cups along a chain-link fence to spell messages like “Justice for Marvin Scott III” and “Rest in power.”
And to commemorate the holiday on Sunday, they set up an Easter egg hunt.
The protests have been attended by local organizers, church leaders, politicians and people who were incarcerated alongside Mr. Scott, said S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer representing Mr. Scott’s family.
“It’s important to do it for a length of time so that the decision makers and the elected officials who are responsible for meeting the demands of the community can hear that consistent voice,” he said. “I think well-organized protests go on until the demands that they’ve laid out are met.”
The sheriff’s office did not respond to questions on Monday about the protesters outside its gates.
Last week, the Collin County sheriff, Jim Skinner, fired seven officers in connection with Mr. Scott’s death. “Evidence I have seen confirms that these detention officers violated well-established Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures,” Sheriff Skinner said in a statement, adding that an eighth officer had resigned.
At a March 19 news conference, Sheriff Skinner called Mr. Scott’s death a tragedy and said he had met with Mr. Scott’s relatives. He added that the Texas Rangers, a state law enforcement agency, were examining video footage of the episode.
But he did not offer a detailed explanation about what happened because an internal investigation is still underway, and autopsy results have yet to be released. The Texas Rangers are conducting a criminal investigation.
Ms. Batts said she planned to continue demonstrating. “I want to see them arrested so we can finally relax and not have to be out here every night,” she said of the detention officers who restrained her brother before he died.
“A life was taken,” she said, “and they need to be held accountable.”