Family of man who died in custody at Chambers County Jail wants to review surveillance video, bodycam footage

Investigation into jail inmate's death
Investigation into jail inmate's death

HOUSTON – The family of 37-year-old Dontriel Javon Coates, who died in police custody Wednesday from what authorities say was a medical emergency at Chambers County Jail, is demanding to review all relevant video footage from that day.

“We want in-car video, we want bodycam, we want sally port video, we want inside the jail video, so this family can view that and be at peace and we just want justice,” said Bert Whittington III, a cousin of Dontriel Coates.

His mother, Cherrie Coates, said she needs answers about what happened to her son who she says had no medical issues.

“There’s something missing there,” she told KPRC 2.

She described her son as a gentle giant. He was a father to a 5-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl.

“He was a very nice fellow,” said Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne.

Hawthorne said a Chambers County deputy who knew Coates, saw him walking at 11 a.m. on July 14 and offered him a “courtesy ride” home. As standard procedure, Hawthorne said, anytime a person gets into a squad car with a deputy, the officer checks to see if they have warrants.

The deputy found Coates had two motions to revoke probation felony warrants related to drug charges, so instead of taking him home, he took him to the Chambers County jail. Officials said Coates was placed in a holding cell to await arraignment.

According to the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, at around 2:20 p.m. Coates asked to speak with the jail administrator, regarding why he was not allowed a bond. Officials said he was informed that he was being held on a no-bond warrant and was returned to his holding cell without incident.

Investigators said Coates remained under supervision throughout the day. However, shortly after a routine check at 4:34 p.m., jail staff said they found Coates in “an off position and sweating profusely.” Officials said they took immediate action by notifying the jail medical staff and EMS.

Officials said Coates was transported by ambulance to Bayside Community Hospital shortly after 5 p.m., where the medical team performed lifesaving measures for over two hours. Officials said he was pronounced dead at 7:19 p.m.

“Something is not right. But if he called out for help and they didn’t come until then something is wrong somewhere,” Cherrie Coates said.

Chambers County Justice of the Peace Precinct 5 Judge David Hatfield ordered an inquest, a standard practice in custodial deaths. Sheriff Hawthorne requested the Department of Public Safety Texas Rangers conduct the investigation.


About the Authors:

Emmy-winning journalist, native Houstonian, reader, dancer, yogi.