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Jacare Simmons death: Ex-Harris County Jail officer Eric Morales faces murder charge in fatal beating of inmate

Houston, Texas (KTRK) – For the first time in Harris County, a former arresting officer has confronted a judge in connection with the death of an incarcerated man.

The shipment originates from Jacare SimmonsThe death returns in 2021, but it also comes on the heels of an Eyewitness News investigation that revealed a record number of prisoner deaths at the prison last year.

See more: 13 Investigations: Decades-Long Prisoner Deaths Was Just One Concern at Harris Corporation Prison

Court documents showed that Eric Morales caused the injuries that killed Simmons, but it took two years and several grand jury proceedings to get a manslaughter indictment.

“It’s the culmination of all the evidence we had and the testimonies of witnesses,” said Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Clark, after revealing how the case against Morales was built.

None of the 1,490 cameras inside the jail at the time captured video of the confrontation that led to Simmons’ death, but the sheriff’s office alone completed 73 interviews.

“Yes. I think there were criminal offenses committed in this whole transaction,” Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said after a three-month investigation in 2021.

SEE MORE: 11 Harris County Sheriff’s Office employees fired after inmate death; 6 suspended

He also announced that he would fire 11 arresting officers who violated policy and possibly the law. Morales is the only one charged.

Clark added, “It just took us a while to get to this point. And I’m optimistic, I don’t anticipate additional fees.”

Court documents show that Morales caused Simmons’ death by dropping him on his head, kneeling him in the head, slamming his head against a door, and slamming his head against a wall.

ABC13 also spoke with his mother, LaRhonda Biggles, who told us two years ago that she knew he was hurt and confused when the alleged assault occurred.

“They broke a family horribly,” Biggles said. “They didn’t have to kill my child like that, and I won’t stop until justice is done for my child.”

Simmons was jailed for allegedly having a gun as a felon, but she said he didn’t deserve to die for what he did. This message was echoed by the Prosecutor General’s Office, such as four other prisoners They died in Harris County Jail just this year.

“The message that is being sent is that we are prosecuted no matter which side of the bars you are on,” Clark said. “We seek justice. If it does occur and it is a crime, we will investigate and prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law.”

Late Monday, First Deputy Thomas Gilliland of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office provided a response in light of the charge:

It has been nearly two years since Jacare Simmons died from injuries sustained while in Harris County Jail. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office immediately conducted a thorough internal investigation which revealed significant policy violations. Based on these findings, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez accepted his Administrative Disciplinary Committee’s recommendation to fire 11 employees and suspend 6 more in May 2021, and publicly expressed sympathy with the Simmons family for the loss of loved ones.

The Houston Police Department conducted a separate criminal investigation into the events surrounding Simmons’ death. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office recently presented the results of the OSH investigation to a grand jury, which issued an indictment against Eric Morales, the former custodial officer, alleging he committed manslaughter. Morales was among 11 employees fired as a result of the sheriff’s office’s internal investigation.

In June 2021, the Sheriff’s Office implemented SAP Active Law Enforcement (ABLE) and Integration of Communications and Tactics (ICAT) into the training program for all custodial officers. So far, 1,164 detention officers have completed the training.

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