Family Files Federal Lawsuit of Man Who Committed Suicide in 2019
Chris Cabler was arrested and booked into the Red River County jail, in Clarksville, Texas, on April 16, 2019. During intake, it was disclosed that Chris had attempted suicide two months before. Chris had been in the same jail just a few months before and had harmed himself by swallowing and cutting himself with a razor blade.
According to a press release, a magistrate was notified that Chris had a mental condition, but the form reporting Chris’s condition improperly said that there was no indication of that condition. While Chris was in the Red River County jail, he made a number of requests related to mental health medication. Jail medication records, according to the Texas Ranger investigating Chris’s death, and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (“TCJS”), do not indicate that Chris was provided all needed medication.
Chris was left in a single-person cell with materials with which he could form a ligature. It is well-known that an inmate exhibiting self-harm tendencies should not be left alone, unobserved, with clothing, bedding, or similar items with which he can form a ligature to commit suicide. Unfortunately, on May 5, 2019, Chris did just that, using items provided to him by the Red River County jail.
The Texas Ranger investigating Chris’s death reviewed hours of video recordings of Chris’s cell. The Texas Ranger wrote in his report, “Based upon autopsy findings and the observation of the video recording inside Cabler’s cell; it appears Cabler planned and prepared to commit suicide by hanging, which was observed by his actions.” Thus, it appears that anyone choosing to view the video monitor of Chris’s cell for the hours before his death would be able to determine that Chris was in fact planning his suicide.
The TCJS also conducted an investigation. The TCJS wrote in a report, “After careful review of all paperwork and video it was determined that there were three (3) violations of minimum standards, and a notice of non-compliance was issued on July 24, 2019. Additionally, there was one area of concern and technical assistance was provided.” The area of “technical assistance” was that Red River County had not updated eight of its operational plans in roughly nineteen years. One such plan was its Mental Disabilities/Suicide Prevention Plan.
The Red River County jail has had significant problems remaining in compliance with TCJS minimum standards. In fact, as of February 3, 2021, it is listed at the TCJS website as being non-compliant as a result of a recent inspection. The inspection report indicated that the Red River County jail, even after Chris’s death, violated a minimum standard regarding intake procedures for a person observed to be mentally disabled and/or potentially suicidal.
A federal lawsuit was filed on February 1, 2021, in Texarkana on behalf of Chris’s family. The lawsuit claims that Defendants violated Chris’s constitutional rights to reasonable medical/mental health care, to be protected, and not to be punished as a pre-trial detainee. Pre-trial detainees in Texas county jails are entitled to reasonable medical/mental health care and not to be punished, since they have not been convicted of anything.
Constitutional rights lawyer Dean Malone represents the family. Mr. Malone said, “It was apparent to the Texas Ranger, from reviewing video recordings of Chris’s cell, that Chris was preparing to commit suicide. Thus, any person working for the Red River County jail who chose to view that monitor should have known the same thing. It was also clear to Red River County, from a lawsuit filed against it six years before Chris’s death, with similar allegations, that it needed to have in place appropriate policies and practices to protect suicidal inmates. Suicides are unfortunately not a rare occurrence in Texas County jails, and counties must be prepared to deal with suicidal inmates.”