Family of Texas man who died by suicide in jail gets $400K in wrongful death suit
A state investigation found that jailers failed to check on Dean Stewart, 50, three times in the 24 hours leading up to his death
By Nichole Manna
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
TARRANT COUNTY, Texas — The mother of a man who died by suicide while being held at the Tarrant County Jail will receive $400,000 from the county after reaching a settlement in her 2021 lawsuit.
Dean Stewart, 50, was arrested on April 5, 2020, a suspect in a road rage shooting where the victim was uninjured, police records say. The lawsuit says the shooting stemmed from one of Dean’s “paranoidal delusions concerning a car he thought was following him.”
He died on April 26, 2020.
Stewart’s brother told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2020 that there were plenty of clues that Stewart suffered from serious mental instability and should have been watched closely or taken someplace where he could have received appropriate treatment.
Instead, Stewart was taken to the Tarrant County Jail where jailers failed to make face-to-face observations on Stewart, according to documents obtained by the Star-Telegram from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Because of those failures, the jail lost its certification for six days in May 2020.
The lawsuit says that Stewart’s mother spoke with him after his arrest. He acted paranoid and talked about people wanting to kill him. Several members of his family told jail administrators that something bad was going to happen if they did not do something to protect Stewart and make sure he was on his medications.
Administrators told his family that he was moved to a suicide prevention/detection cell. The lawsuit alleges he was not provided help and not placed on suicide watch.
The morning after Stewart’s death, the lawsuit says, a jail guard told his brother that the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office “was just understaffed and undertrained.” Another guard told his brother that, “things happened, that’s the way it is,” according to the lawsuit.
A state investigation found that jailers failed to check on Stewart three times in the 24 hours leading up to his death. He was left alone for nearly an hour when jailers were 21 minutes late to a check.
Other times, the checks were made 17 minutes and 12 minutes late, according to the document.