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Activist calls for federal investigation, outside party to manage Tarrant County jail after recent deaths

Calls for federal investigation into Tarrant County jail deaths
Calls for federal investigation into Tarrant County jail deaths 02:39

NORTH TEXAS — Cory Session is not biting his tongue about the investigation into Anthony Johnson Jr.'s in-custody death at the Tarrant County Jail.

"It was absolutely atrocious, unacceptable," Session said. "Every person who was involved in that should have been suspended, if not terminated." 

Session said he watched Sheriff Bill E. Waybourn's release of jail video showing the fight that led to Johnson's death. He said it reminded him of his brother Timothy Cole, imprisoned for 25 years for a rape he did not commit and died in 1999 of a medical issue before DNA exonerated him ten years later.

"My own brother, who died in prison, left unattended," Session said. "They didn't get to him in time. This one, they caused this death."

He believes Johnson's death, and the deaths of more than 60 others over the past seven years, warrant higher scrutiny.

"There needs to be a federal investigation," he said. "And the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department should welcome that investigation because his own internal investigations aren't stopping this."

The Texas Rangers are already investigating Johnson's case. TCSO told CBS News Texas that the probe is still ongoing at the jail. The District Attorney's Office said they had not received the case but would not offer further comments.

On April 21, Waybourn said jail employees were doing a routine shakedown for contraband inside the jail. The sheriff said employees found a razor and shank in Johnson's cell. He said Johnson became combative when asked to come out of his cell.

Jail employees, according to the sheriff, fought, pepper-sprayed and continued grappling with the Marine veteran until they had his hands restrained.

Waybourn said officer Rafael Moreno placed his knee on Johnson's back for nearly 90 seconds.

"Can't breathe," Johnson said on the video before becoming unresponsive and dying. His cause of death has not been determined.

The sheriff said kneeling on someone to gain compliance is only permitted if that person is not restrained. He said Johnson's case was against TCSO policy.

"And not one person there said, 'Whoa, you can't.' He was already in handcuffs," Session said.

Moreno was fired. After the incident, the sheriff also dismissed Moreno's supervisor, Lt. Joel Garcia.

"There's no way they should be holding a job," said Johnson's father, Anthony Johnson Sr. "Now, I have to live with the rest of this and figure out a way we hold everyone accountable."

Johson's father, mother Jacqualyne, and sister Janelle watched a longer version of the jailhouse video at the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office last week.

"We want charges against the people that took his last breath," Jacqualyne Johnson said.

Attorney Daryl Washington said that the family hopes for policy changes at the jail from Waybourn, like getting access to video for incidents sooner.

"We believe that the treatment that we saw Anthony have to endure, this is [the] treatment that inmates are dealing with every single day," Daryl Washington said.

TCSO said 63 people in its custody have died since 2017, most of which were due to natural causes and medical conditions like cancer, heart attacks and chronic illnesses.

During the same period, 66% of the inmates have mental health conditions, TCSO said.

Session said the jail should bring in an outside management company to run the facility.

"The sheriff can't handle it. He cannot handle it," Session said

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