Harris County jail death lawsuit

Jacqueline Smith will never forget her last conversation with her son in jail.

"He told me 'Mom, don't worry about me.' and I said 'No, I'm going to take care of it. I'm going to get you out.' he said 'No, don't worry about me I'm going to be OK.'"

But Danarian Hawkins was most definitely not OK. He was a suicidal paranoid schizophrenic. According to this incident report dated February 5, 2014, he used a bed sheet to hang himself from the smoke detector in his cell. Smith's attorney says the jail staff allowed it to happen.

"What is clear legally is that putting someone who is suicidal in a cell with implements of suicide, the tie off point. Jail officials better than anyone understand that you are clearly putting this person in an obvious and known risk of harm." said Amin Alehashem with the Texas Civil Rights Project.

He says they knew he was at risk during his year and a half behind bars awaiting trial for armed robbery, a crime he committed with a toy gun. He allegedly told jailers he was suicidal and according to this incident report date April 23, 2013 he attempted suicide in the exact same manner.

Hawkins’s sister even wrote the judge warning he was suicidal.

So Smith and the Texas Civil Right Project are suing the sheriff's office under the Americans With Disabilities Act because the jail can't adequately handle the mentally disabled. They claim the jail is understaffed, the staff is under-trained, and they did not transfer Hawkins to a mental health facility when they should have.

Dr. James Douglas with the NAACP says this tragedy along with the Sandra Bland case illustrate a broader problem with the criminal justice system.
"The whole system is broken. It's law enforcement, it's the judicial system and the people who incarcerate them. So we have to look at the whole criminal justice system because it's broken."

We are awaiting reaction to the lawsuit from both former Sheriff Adrian Garcia and the current Sheriff Ron Hickman.