Former Harris Co. Jailer charged with manslaughter following inmate's death
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - A former Harris County detention officer is now charged with manslaughter in the death of an inmate two years ago.
Eric Niles Morales, 28, of Houston, is charged in the death of Jaquaree Simmons, who was found unconscious in his cell on Feb. 17, 2021, during the winter storm. His death was determined to be from blunt force trauma to his head.
MORE: 11 employees terminated, 6 suspended after investigation into Harris County Jail death
According to the charges read in court, Morales is accused of kneeing Simmons in the head, striking his head against a door and dropping him on his head, allegedly resulting in his death.
Morales’ bond was set at $100,000. Bond conditions include a curfew and electronic monitoring.
In May 2021, the sheriff’s office announced the results of a three-month inquiry, conducted by a dozen Internal Affairs investigators and supervisors, into Simmons’ death.
The sheriff announced that 11 detention officers were fired, and six others were suspended in the investigation. Morales is the only one who has been charged in Simmons’ death.
According to the investigation, Simmons had been booked into the jail on Feb. 10, 2021, for a charge of felon in possession of a weapon.
On the morning of Feb. 16, investigators say detention officers responded to Simmons' cell to clean it after he used his clothing to clog his cell toilet, causing it to overflow. The sheriff’s office said force was used during the encounter, and he was returned to his cell without clothing – violating policy.
That evening, detention officers arrived at Simmons’ cell to deliver a meal. The sheriff's office says one of the detention officers filed a written report stating that Simmons threw his meal tray at him and charged toward the detention officer, who struck Simmons in the face with his fist and then closed the door leaving Simmons inside the cell.
Detention officers reportedly then called for help removing Simmons from his cell so that he could be evaluated by medical personnel. According to the investigation, detention officers used force against Simmons as they handcuffed him and escorted him out of the cellblock, and he suffered multiple blows to his head.
After a medical evaluation, he was returned to his cell. According to the investigation, a power outage forced staff to use hand-written round sheets, but there was no documentation of rounds being completed in the area of Simmons’ cell until he was found unresponsive at 12:10 p.m. Feb. 17.
He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
According to the sheriff's office, the 17 people who were fired or suspended in the investigation committed various serious policy violations. Click here to see more on the report.