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Webster, Texas Jail Prisoner Dies – Texas Rangers Investigation Requested

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On June 11, 2019, the Webster Police Department, in Webster, Texas, filed a custodial death report with Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas. The report was regarding the death of Nathaniel Bruce Gale. Mr. Gale was only 19 years old when he passed away. We make no allegation that any person did anything wrong related to Mr. Gale’s death, but are simply providing information in this post obtained from that report.

Mr. Gale was arrested on Friday June 7, 2019 at approximately 10:14 p.m., for possession of a control substance (cocaine). He was arrested in a parking lot on IH-45 in Webster, Texas. Webster is in Harris County.

Mr. Gale was put into custody without any incident or use of force and then transported to the Webster, Texas municipal jail. Mr. Gale was cooperative during booking, which included answering health screening questions. The report also indicates that Mr. Gale appears to have been intoxicated as a result of alcohol or drugs. Mr. Gale was then placed into an unoccupied 4-person cell. Mr. Gale eventually fell asleep.

Between midnight and 1:00 a.m. on Saturday June 8, 2019, two additional prisoners were put into the same cell. At approximately 3:07 a.m., one of the prisoners was transported to an area hospital after he fractured his hand as a result of punching the cell wall. When that transport occurred, a Webster police officer noted that Mr. Gale was asleep and snoring loudly.

At approximately 8:52 a.m., on Saturday June 8, 2019, Webster police officers were distributing meals to prisoners when one or more such officers found Mr. Gale unresponsive. Medics were called to the scene, and Mr. Gale was pronounced deceased.

After Webster Police Department command staff learned of Mr. Gale’s in-custody death, they notified the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and asked that an investigator respond. They also notified the Texas Rangers, Webster Police Department Criminal Investigation Personnel, Webster Police Department Office of Professional Standards, and the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office. An autopsy was performed on Sunday June 9, 2019. Toxicology results related to an autopsy can take weeks to obtain. However, preliminary results indicate that Mr. Gale had several drugs in his system at the time of death. The report also indicates that several investigations are pending, including a civil rights investigation, an internal investigation, and three death investigations.

The report does not indicate anything regarding whether Mr. Gale was periodically observed. One significant problem in Texas is that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards only regulates county jails. Thus, municipal jails and holding facilities, such as that in Webster, Texas, are exempt from Texas Commission on Jail Standards oversight. This could lead to significant problems, since there are no legally-required standards in Texas for municipal jails and holding facilities.

Our firm handles a significant number of jail death cases across Texas, and one jail expert with which we have communicated indicates his belief that cities in Texas should not have their own jails. It is his belief that any prisoner, after potentially a brief hold in a municipal holding facility, should be transferred to a county jail. This would ensure that prisoners are in facilities which are governed by Texas Commission on Jail Standards standards. While this would not ensure that prisoners would not be treated improperly and/or die, it would at least provide oversight as to jail operations and hopefully lead to better treatment of prisoners. By way of example, periodic face-to-face checks required by the TCJS would need to occur, whereas in municipal jails no such checks are legally-required by Texas law.

Another significant issue in jails across the United States is that of detoxification. Though we have no personal knowledge regarding Mr. Gale, the fact that he appeared intoxicated at the time of intake should raise red flags to jailers as to whether it is appropriate to transfer Mr. Gale to a local hospital for detoxification and/or implement other detoxification protocol. Further, people who are intoxicated are at a significantly higher risk of suicide.

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.