Grand jury declines to indict CO, nurse in Texas inmate's death

Regular checks were conducted on the inmate, but a self-inflicted head injury was initially missed


By Katie Hall
Austin American-Statesman
        
AUSTIN, Texas — A grand jury this week decided not to indict a Travis County corrections officer and a nurse in connection with the 2019 death of an inmate.

The Travis County district attorney's office does not typically bring jail deaths before grand juries, but DA office officials said they had determined that they might have had enough evidence to go to trial in this case. Prosecutors do not currently plan to bring any other past Travis County jail deaths to a grand jury.

Tyler Allen Grist, who was in his late 20s, "intentionally fell backwards" several times in his padded jail cell on Aug. 31, 2019, about a month after he was booked on an arson charge, according to a statement from the Travis County district attorney's office.

The Travis County medical examiner's office ruled Tyler Allen Grist's death a suicide, with the cause of death being blunt head trauma.
The Travis County medical examiner's office ruled Tyler Allen Grist's death a suicide, with the cause of death being blunt head trauma. (Austin American-Statesman)

Grist fell three times and struck his head twice on an elevated platform in his cell. On-duty corrections officers, along with a nurse, conducted regular checks on Grist but were unaware that Grist had fallen, the DA's office said.

Corrections officers later entered Grist's cell to transfer him to another unit and discovered that he needed medical attention, the DA's office said. Medics took him to the hospital, where he later died on Sept. 6, 2019.

The Travis County medical examiner's office ruled Grist's death a suicide, with the cause of death being blunt head trauma.

"The district attorney's office takes the work of presenting all facts and evidence to a grand jury very seriously," District Attorney José Garza said. "In this case, an independent group of members of the Travis County community heard the evidence" and concluded that the conduct of those involved was lawful.

Another Travis County inmate — 55-year-old Ronald Hall — also died after falls in his cell in 2018.

Hall banged his head against the thinly padded walls of his jail cell almost 30 times before a corrections officer saw him shaking on the floor and called a nurse, who told him that Hall was safe in his padded cell, according to investigative reports. Later that morning, Hall was dead.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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