A Harris County detention officer fired in the wake of an inmate death is suing Sheriff Adrian Garcia and the Civil Service Commission in a bid to get his job back.
Christopher Taylor claims that he was unfairly singled out, because two other officers fired after the 2011 incident were later rehired. One of those officers punched the inmate -- a 72-year-old man with a history of schizophrenia -- who later died at Ben Taub, according to the suit, filed Tuesday.
Taylor, 32, was the last of the three officers to have his appeal heard by the the Civil Service Commission, which upheld his termination in August.
The suit describes in detail the circumstances surrounding the death of inmate Norman Hicks, who was being held for violating a protective order stemming from a domestic violence charge.
Taylor and two other officers -- a Sheriff's deputy with 14 years' experience and a detention officer with six months -- were working January 11, 2011, when they were called to move Hicks from his cell to to an attorney meeting room that served as an "isolation" room. (Taylor was a part-time detention officer at the time of the incident).
Once in the room, Hicks "had taken off his shirt, placed it on the floor, urinated on it, and defecated on it," according to the suit. After being moved to another meeting room, Hicks threw his soiled shirt at detention officer Chris Pool.
Taylor alleges that he was in the first meeting room, monitoring an inmate clean up the mess left by Hicks, when he heard Pool, 25, yell "you motherfucker." He then saw Hicks raise his fists and swing at Pool.
"Taylor saw Pool's head snap back, and saw Pool swing back at Hicks," according to the suit. Seconds later, Taylor saw Hicks on the floor.
"After 30 seconds or so, Taylor looked in on Hicks and saw him in a 'girl push-up position,' meaning he was on his knees, raised up on his hands, shaking out his head. He was not bleeding," according to the suit. "Taylor, at the time, did not believe that Hicks was in immediate distress. He was moving. He was not bleeding."
The floor sergeant checked on Hicks about 15 minutes after the incident and saw that he was not breathing. Hicks was transported to Ben Taub, where he died six days later from a heart attack "due to atherosclerotic and hypertensive cardiovascular disease following blunt head trauma with nasal bone fracture," the suit states.
A grand jury no-billed all three officers, according to the suit. Taylor was promoted to full-time status five months after the incident and "received excellent evaluations."
However, all three were fired in August 2012, and all three appealed. Only Taylor's termination was upheld.
We reached out to the Harris County Sheriff's Office for comment and will update if we hear back.
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