An autopsy ruled Danny Carrillo’s death a homicide. He is one of more than 1,100 people who have died in jail custody across Texas since 2010.

By Michael Barajas and Sophie Novack, Texas Observer

Armando Carrillo had been waiting outside the Nueces County Jail for hours when he heard sirens approaching in the middle of the night on March 5, 2018. He had visited the jail earlier that day to see his youngest son, Danny, 27, who had been incarcerated for three weeks on a probation violation. Danny had sounded increasingly paranoid on the phone leading up to the visit and started crying and cowering when officers escorted him out of his cell. “You could tell he was losing his mind. I’ve never seen him like that,” Armando says. Pacing outside the jail later that night, Armando desperately called attorneys and bail bondsmen to help him get his son out. His stomach dropped when he saw an ambulance pull up to the box-like building lined with razor wire around 2 a.m. He thought of his son’s rambling last words hours before: “He was telling me, ‘I know I’m going to get killed.’”

Texas prison system deaths

Jail staff and people incarcerated with Danny said he seemed fine when he entered the lockup but eventually started spiraling—sobbing day and night, hallucinating, and babbling incoherently about threats against his family. Danny, who had been diagnosed with mental health and substance use disorders, had struggled in recent years—losing a sister and bouncing between lockup and halfway houses. His mother, who recently had brain surgery, had joined Armando to visit Danny that day but was detained by officers who uncovered an old theft charge when they screened her to enter. Guards said Danny became “belligerent” when she was taken away, then later swung at them when they stormed his cell to move him, striking one officer in the temple and another in the nose. Three guards then tackled Danny and pinned him to the floor, while a fourth stuck his knee into Danny’s back and a fifth shocked him with a stun gun. Nurses who arrived to check on him about 10 minutes later found him bloodied, without a pulse.

Hours later, officials released his mom. Danny, they said, was dead.

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