Wrongful Death Suit Alleges Texas Police Officers Showed ‘Deliberate Indifference’ to 23-Year-Old Black Man’s Distress Before He Died In Custody
After the family of a Black man who died in police in 2019 filed a wrongful death suit against three Texas officers, police camera footage of the moments leading up to the man’s death has been made public.
Darren Boykin, 23, died in police custody in August 2019 after Texarkana College police officers confronted him in a campus building under the suspicion that he had been involved in a theft. Boykin reportedly fled the officers and ran a half mile before he was apprehended off campus.
After Texarkana Police made contact with Boykin and learned he had a felony warrant in Ohio, officers took him into custody and transported him to jail, whereupon he was discovered unresponsive before he could be booked. Boykin was then taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
According to a lawsuit filed by Boykin’s mother, Keisha Boykin, in the U.S. District Court in Texarkana, Texas, on Aug. 29, officers ignored Boykin’s complaints of distress and denied him medical care.
“It was clear that this wasn’t just someone who happened to die. It was someone who was complaining that they were in distress, that they needed help and they were in a situation where they couldn’t provide themselves with that care,” said attorney James Roberts, an attorney for the family, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.
Texarkana Police Officers Jerrika Weaver and Brent Hobbs, and their supervisor during the arrest, Sgt. William Scott, are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The high temperature in Texarkana reached 91 degrees on Aug. 29, 2019, the day Boykin died after trying to flee Texarkana College Police on foot.
Boykin was lying down, handcuffed and breathing heavily before officers carried him to a patrol car. Responding Texarkana Police discovered that Boykin had an Ohio driver’s license and a felony warrant in the state. Boykin told officers he’d been in Texarkana for about six months. Texarkana officers Weaver, Hobbs, and Scott discussed Boykin’s complaints about not being able to breathe on different occasions but the officers never acted on his concerns.
“Being the sergeant and supervisor on scene, defendant Scott had the ability to call for medical assistance or direct defendant Hobbs or defendant Weaver to call for medical assistance for Darren,” the lawsuit says.
Video footage of the incident shows Boykin sitting in the back of the patrol car. “Please help me,” Boykin said.
Weaver replied, “I’m gonna help you get your way down to the jail.”
“OK, can you help me back here?” Boykin said, before complaining about his leg.
Weaver offered to roll the window down, then agreed to keep the air conditioning on after Boykin said an open window would make it hotter in the vehicle.
“I’m gonna pass out,” Boykin said. Weaver told Boykin to “lean against the glass,” saying he’d be all right as Boykin appeared to lose consciousness in the back seat and no longer responded to Weaver’s questions.
“You know you’re still going to jail either way, right?” Weaver said. “You know someone that passes out isn’t able to stop themselves from falling forward right? Fun fact,” she added, as Boykin continued not to respond.
When the patrol car arrived at the Bowie County jail, Weaver told Boykin she wasn’t going to drag him inside. “Come on, quit playing,” she said.
When Boykin continued not to respond, Weaver pulled him out of the vehicle and began performing CPR.
“You know how he’s got the felony faint in the backseat? ‘Oh I’m gonna pass out.’ He’s fine. He kept saying he was tired, his legs hurt, he kept wanting to lay down. Normal stuff when you’re getting charged with felonies,” Weaver told medical personnel when they arrived.
Boykin was transported to a hospital and pronounced dead.
According to the lawsuit, Boykin died because officers “deliberately chose not to provide medical care,” and showed “deliberate indifference” to his distress.
A custodial death report prepared by the Texarkana College Police says Boykin’s death was “natural” and notes “complications of sickle cell trait,” as found at autopsy.
Texarkana Police declined to comment on the matter, citing pending litigation. The lawsuit alleges civil rights violations and seeks punitive damages and compensation for Boykin’s suffering and his mother’s mental anguish.