Vigil held for man who died in police custody

A Rosenberg man who died while in police custody this week has the community calling for answers.

Friends and family of 33-year old Joseph Gunter held a vigil outside Rosenburg Police Department on Wednesday, days after learning of his alleged suicide while in city jail Monday night.

According to police, Joseph Gunter was taken into custody Monday afternoon and charged with possession of a controlled substance. Gunter's wife Mariah Martinez says she spoke with him shortly after by phone, saying he told her he would be out soon.

Police report that during a routine patrol at 7:15 P.M. officers found Gunter unresponsive in his cell. They declared him dead at Oak Bend Hospital that evening.

At the vigil, family and friends tried to comfort one another as they lit candles in Gunter's memory.

The incident is being investigated as a suicide by  the Texas Rangers and Fort Bend County District Attorney's office.

"Every death such as this, in custody in a detention facility, goes to a grand jury for a review," explained John Healy, Fort Bend District Attorney, at a press conference Tuesday. He says the Grand Jury will, "see what has happened, ask questions, and make a determination as to whether or not there is any aspect of criminality associated with the behavior of the individuals involved."

Family members of Gunter say they have many questions, including why police said Gunter had a belt in his cell when he was discovered. Police would not comment further on the belt due to the open investigation.

The belt is one of several inconsistencies family is calling into question regarding Gunter's death. They want police and the county to share more information.

"The police department will give them a general idea of what happened," said Healy. "They are welcome to any information that is not prohibited by law after the grand jury conducts their investigation, in the event that an indictment does not come forth."

When asked whether Gunter had any mental health issues which may have indicated a heightened risk for self harm, family members said they were not aware of any. Police say staff is trained to recognize such issues and would have either placed Gunter under increased supervision or transferred him to county jail if there were any indications that he might be a risk to himself.

 

 

 

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