Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Family seeks answers in jail death

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 at 6:06 PM

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Family and friends passed out bracelets reading "Justice for Thomas Taylor" Tuesday outside the Bexar County courthouse

At 8 p.m. on August 21, Thomas Reed Taylor, 30, turned himself in to serve time at the Bexar County Adult Detention Center for misdemeanor drunk driving and drug posession warrants in lieu of fines. Guards found him dead in his cell six hours later.

Taylor's family, friends and Texas jail reform advocates rallied outside the Bexar County courthouse early Tuesday morning, insisting Taylor's death deserves answers. “He wasn't sick, he had just cleaned himself up. How did he die within just six hours?” questioned Tonie Taylor Grindle, Taylor's sister.

Bexar County officials say they're still investigating Taylor's death, the fourth at the facility this year. Officials have yet to release a cause of death, though the Texas Commission on Jail Standards currently lists Taylor's death as “natural.”

Grindle said her brother had a history of prescription drug abuse – his prior arrests include theft, disorderly conduct, drug possession and assault of a public servant. In the months before his death, Taylor had detoxed and finished a rehab program, Grindle said. Taylor turned himself in at the Hays and Guadalupe county jails to serve time for warrants there. He was scheduled for transfer to the Bexar County jail in August, but was released for five days due to a paperwork mixup.

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Tonie Taylor Grindle

Taylor's girlfriend of five months, Tera Ayala, said she spent much of those five days with him. When Taylor turned himself in the night of August 21, he wasn't taking drugs, she insists.

“He had been trying to get it together, that's why he was going off to serve time,” she said. “I was floored when I got the phone call” that he died, she said. “He was willingly there.”

Jail officials claim Taylor was disruptive upon intake. Guards moved him to an isolation cell after he called an officer walking past his holding cell a “fat fuck,” according to an incident report from the jail. “[Taylor] was compliant of all orders while being escorted

and no use of force was necessary or utilized,” according to the report. At about 2 a.m. guards found Taylor inside his cell, slumped over on his knees with his arms to his side and forehead on the floor. Blood was coming out of his nose, according to the report.

The report also indicates that due to a problem with the jail's booking system, officials never took Taylor's mugshot (the one that ran with an E-N article was from a previous incarceration, family says).

“It's always awful when a death occurs, but this is a young man who turned himself in,” said Texas Jail Project director Diana Claitor, who rallied with Taylor's family and friends Tuesday. -- Michael Barajas

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