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Wallace Howell Dies in Ector County Jail in Odessa, Texas – Autopsy Pending

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The Ector County Sheriff’s Office, in Odessa, Texas, filed a custodial death report with the Attorney General of Texas regarding the death of Wallace Howell.  Mr. Howell was 38 years old at the time of his death.  Information in this post was obtained from that report, and we make no allegation of wrongdoing against anyone regarding Mr. Howell’s death.

Custodial death reports in Texas have recently been shortened.  They were typically approximately 6 pages, and they have now been reduced to 2 pages.  This provides less information to the public and, in our opinion, less transparency as to what law enforcement officers and jailers in Texas are doing as it relates to deaths of people in custody.

Therefore, the custodial death report regarding Wallace Howell contains very little information.  The summary portion of the report reads in its entirety:

“On June 15, 2020 Mr. Howell was involved in a Evading in a motor vehicle incident with a neighboring county, which ended in Ector County. Mr. Howell stopped was placed under arrest and transported to the Ector County Jail. Once in the booking area for a few hours Mr. Howell became very agitated towards other inmates in the holding cell. Mr. Howell then began to assault an inmate which was stopped by Jail staff. The Mr. Howell then began to charge staff members and was tased several time and was finally subdued. Mr. Howell was placed in a WRAP to protect himself and others. The subject was then placed in a Padded cell and monitored. A short time later while checking Mr. Howell he was found to be unresponsive. CPR was then administered and an ambulance was called. Mr Howell was then transported to the MCH and treated for his condition. Mr. Howell was later pronounced deceased by ER doctors. Mr. Howell was sent for Autopsy and we are awaiting autopsy results.”

The summary provides no information regarding the determined cause of Mr. Howell’s death.  His death could have been as a result of jail staff Tasing him and/or using a WRAP on Mr. Howell.  It is our experience that the Texas Rangers are likely to investigate Mr. Howell’s death.

The United States Constitution, the Fourth and/or Fourteenth Amendments, provide protection to pre-trial detainees such as Mr. Howell from excessive force.  If law enforcement officers and/or jailers use excessive force and cause the death of a person, then those law enforcement officers, and possibly the law enforcement agencies and/or counties for which they work, can be liable to certain surviving family members.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which governs Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, has determined that a federal court considering constitution claims should borrow the state in which it sits laws regarding who can sue for such claims.  In Texas, for example, wrongful death beneficiaries are the spouse, children, and parents of a deceased person.  When our Texas civil rights law firm files such a lawsuit, we typically do so in federal court. 

Written By: author image Dean Malone
author image Dean Malone
Dean Malone is the founder of Law Offices of Dean Malone, P.C., a jail neglect civil rights law firm. Mr. Malone earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Texas at Dallas, graduating summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA, and from Baylor University School of Law with a general civil litigation concentration. Mr. Malone served in several staff positions for the Baylor Law Review, including executive editor. Mr. Malone is an experienced trial lawyer, trying a number of cases to jury verdict and also handling arbitrations through final hearing. He heads the jail neglect section of his law firm, in which lawyers litigate cases involving serious injury and death resulting from jail neglect and abuse. Lawyers frequently refer cases to Mr. Malone due to his focus on this very complicated civil rights practice area.