Lawyers ask Tarrant County sheriff to release ‘full video’ of in-custody death

Attorneys representing different parties linked to an in-custody death at the Tarrant County Jail last month are asking the sheriff’s office to release more video footage related to the incident.

The lawsuits come after Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn held a news conference Thursday and released five minutes of footage that he said informed his decision to fire two jailers who responded to the Sept. 21 incident. April that ended with the death of Anthony Johnson Jr.

Daryl Washington, an attorney representing Johnson’s family, said in a Tuesday news release that the videos contradicted information the sheriff’s office provided before Thursday’s announcements. Johnson, a former Marine who authorities said suffered from schizophrenia, was 31 years old.

Before last week’s conference, the family was shown 14 minutes of footage, Washington said. That video showed Johnson being “dragged” and “brutalized” after “it was clear that he was unresponsive and in need of urgent medical attention which he did not receive,” the attorney said in the statement.

“In my line of work, I have seen many videos that reveal what really happened during officer-involved incidents and this video was one of the worst I have ever seen,” Washington said in the statement.

A spokesperson for the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to phone messages and text messages seeking comment or respond to a list of emailed questions Tuesday.

The publicly shared five-minute video shows former jailer Rafael Moreno kneeling on Johnson for about 90 seconds. In the footage, Johnson is handcuffed, shouts that he can’t breathe, and can be heard struggling to breathe.

A Tarrant County jailer and his supervisor were fired after the sheriff said they broke their training and a man died while in custody in April 2024.

The video, which was partially captured via cell phone by former Tarrant County Sheriff’s Lt. Joel Garcia, ends once jailers prepare to transport Johnson. The sheriff’s office would only describe what happened next, saying Johnson became unresponsive and then died.

The sheriff’s office said April 22 that the death was the result of a “medical emergency” after a fight during a “cell check.” Moreno and Garcia, the supervisor at the time, were fired last week, Waybourn announced Thursday.

Waybourn said Garcia was fired because he failed to respond appropriately to the “urgency of the situation” and made mistakes in seeking medical care for Johnson. Moreno was fired because he should not have used his knee to restrain Johnson once he was already handcuffed, Waybourn said.

Randell Moore, an attorney representing Garcia, also asked the sheriff’s office to release more images. In an interview Tuesday, he said Waybourn’s description of how his client was slow to seek medical care for Johnson was incorrect.

Moore said the rest of the footage shows Garcia acted quickly once he saw something was wrong and in accordance with sheriff’s office policy.

“I think if they’re going to come out and show part of the video and then comment on what’s happening and what’s not happening in the rest of it, then they should show it in full,” Moore said. The Dallas Morning News. “Or they don’t need to comment on what they don’t show because I have no way to refute that.”

Washington called on the sheriff’s office to release the “full video” and said “everyone involved” should face criminal charges.

It is unclear whether the fired prison staff, who were two of more than a dozen prison staff shown responding to the incident in the videos, will face charges.

Jane Bishkin, an attorney for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, told WFAA-TV (Channel 8) last week that Moreno’s termination letter did not list the reason for the firing. Waybourn acted prematurely and should have waited for the medical examiner’s final report before making the decision to fire Moreno, she told the station.

Johnson had been in jail after an arrest by deputies in Saginaw, where he was accused of “brandishing a knife at a driver” while stopped in the road, the sheriff’s office previously said. He was facing multiple charges, including possession of a controlled substance and evading arrest/detention.

The Texas Rangers, the investigative arm of the Department of Public Safety, are investigating the death. Sergeant. DPS spokesman William Lockridge said investigators were awaiting autopsy results. An autopsy on Johnson was pending Tuesday afternoon, according to online records from the Tarrant County medical examiner.