Texas Rangers were asked by the Hockley County Sheriff’s Office to investigate a death in the Hockley County Jail.
An official said an inmate was found hanging in his cell at 11:35 p.m. Thursday after a possible suicide. Jailers performed CPR on the inmate when they found him on one of their rounds. The inmate was pronounced dead at Covenant Levelland.
“He was in the cell by himself, it was a two-man cell but he was in the cell by himself,” explained James Warren, Chief Deputy for Hockley County. “So we don’t suspect any foul play, but that’s why we called the Texas Rangers.”
Warren said that the jailers who found the inmate were wearing body cameras and their footage has been sent to the Texas Rangers for the investigation.
Warren said that jailers are required to make rounds checking in on inmates every hour. The jailers working Thursday had seen that same inmate alive and well on a round just 35 minutes prior to when they found him hanging.
The inmate’s name was not yet released, but officials say that inmate’s family has been notified.
According to HCSO the inmate was arrested on September 22 for possession of a controlled substance and driving while license invalid. HCSO said the inmate had been seen laughing with other inmates that same day and did not seem despondent in any way. The inmate’s record didn’t indicate that he had any signs of depression or suicidal tendencies.
“We’ve got a form that’s required that we fill out during intake and it’s a medical suicide form,” Warren explained. “It’s a very in depth form we fill out and if there’s a “yes” ( on any of the questions) we need an explanation on any blank on that form. And (the inmate’s) were all “no’s”, so it left us hanging.”
HCSO said deputies were caught off guard by the death. The body was taken to Lubbock on Friday morning for an autopsy.
Warren added that for jails in Texas and around the country, in custody deaths like this are a huge concern. He hopes that in the future, more public funding is available to give inmates the medical and psychiatric attention they need.
“A lot of inmates that are in our jails across this state, all 254 counties, a lot of the inmates don’t need to be in jails. If they have mental issues they need to be getting help at hospitals,” Warren explained. The problem is, it can be tough to tell which inmates are struggling.
“You can’t just look at someone and know what’s going on with them, we gotta talk with them and get involved in their life, and we don’t have time,” Warren said.
Warren explained that the Hockley County Jail currently houses 54 inmates. Resources are tight, making it difficult for jailers to understand how each inmate is actually doing. Hockley County doesn’t even have enough beds to house all of their inmates, the county has 96 total inmates but those who won’t fit at their Levelland facility are sent out to jails in other counties.
Now HCSO is just waiting for more clarity from the autopsy and the Texas Rangers’ investigation.
“It’s very difficult when a mother asks “why?” and we have no answers,” Warren said of this inmate’s death.