Arlington police punish 4 officers after death of man in custody

FILE - Handcuffs (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Handcuffs (KXAN File Photo)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Four Arlington jailers face either dismissal or suspension over the March death of an inmate who was physically restrained by as many as four officers.

Authorities said late Monday that they plan to fire three detention officers and give a supervisor a five-day suspension following the administrative investigation into the death of 42-year-old Jonathan Paul.

All four officers facing punishment — Sgt. Frank Vacante and detention officers Wes Allen, Matt Fisher and Pedro Medina — can appeal.

Medina was indicted last month on a charge of criminally negligent homicide in Paul’s death. In a disciplinary letter, commanders said he exhibited “unbecoming conduct” and failed to exercise appropriate judgment when he allegedly restrained Paul for longer than necessary.

Another officer, Stephen Schmidt, retired before being indicted on the same charge.

Robert Rogers, an attorney representing Medina and Schmidt, did not return The Associated Press’ call for comment Tuesday but told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last month that the men did not deserve to be charged.

“Every officer involved, including Pedro and Steve, acted completely within the training and accepted practices of the Arlington Police Department,” Rogers said. He also contends the officers were forced to restrain Paul because he was in the midst of a drug-induced psychotic episode.

Paul was arrested March 9 following a domestic disturbance call to his apartment complex, where witnesses said he was screaming and throwing items out of an upstairs window.

The next day, jail surveillance video showed officers restraining Paul, who appeared agitated or in distress. He became motionless after being taken to another cell where he was further restrained. He later died at a hospital.

The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office has listed Paul’s cause of death as “in-custody death with application of physical restraints” and also listed “acute psychosis” as a significant condition. The manner of death was undetermined.

In May, Paul’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against the city of Arlington and police Chief Will Johnson, alleging excessive force. A message left with the attorney representing Paul’s family was not returned.

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