EL PASO, Texas (CBS4) — Eight years before the Black Lives Matter movement began that has shaken the country, Sergeant James Brown died in the El Paso County jail while serving a DWI sentence in 2012.
I didn’t come at it as a racially motivated crime, just a great injustice to our family,” Dinetta Robinson-Scott said. “In the video, he kept complaining of not being able to breath.
Officials with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said Brown became agitated because he wasn’t going to be released when he expected. Surrounded by detention officers, he said he couldn’t breathe in the video.
“My son is telling them what needs to be done because he can’t breathe, and what you can do to help me, but they ignore everything he is saying,” Robinson-Scott said.
He was taken to the jail clinic and later to the hospital where he died. Sheriff’s office officials said he died of an undisclosed, pre-existing condition.
"When you have a sickle cell crisis, it's not with the shortness of breath, you're in excruciating pain, and never did he say anything about pain,” Robinson-Scott said.
His mother said it’s hard to watch the Black Lives Matter protests.
“My heart goes out to them and to their families, but at the same time it's very infuriating because we have no justice,” Robinson-Scott said.
She said her son, who served in Iraq and had post-traumatic stress disorder and didn’t get the treatment he needed while in jail.
“You would not believe the amount of people who have reached out to me because their loved ones have had episodes and the way that police have treated them,” Robinson-Scott said.
She said for years she has been advocating for military and a mental health presence at the jails and more training for law enforcement on how to deal with someone with mental illness.
The sheriff’s office calls Brown’s death a tragedy. Officials with the sheriff’s office said it has made changes since his death to better serve people who live with mental illness.
Training includes de-escalation techniques and crisis intervention. Mental health services are now provided for inmates. The department has a new unit that helps people with mental illness, before and after they get out of jail.
Brown’s mother now lives in Washington State. She said after her son’s death there was nothing left for her in El Paso.
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