A man who died Tuesday after being rushed by ambulance to the hospital from the Harris County Jail, will not be labeled an “in-custody death” because the man was technically released from the jail before he died.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office never sent a press release about the death. Additionally, the county agency was not forthcoming about the incident when KPRC 2 spoke to them on Friday.
KPRC 2 Investigates got a tip about the death and inquired through multiple media channels.
The initial was as follows:
“Hi Joel, thanks for reaching out. We have not had an in-custody death. 6/6/,” the anonymous Harris County Sheriff’s Office public information officer wrote.
When KPRC 2 Investigates asked for more information via email, we were told the story was inaccurate, with no further clarification or detail.
Only later, after going up the chain of command, eventually to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, did we get a phone call, explaining what happened.
Technically, it does appear that Lawrence Gutierrez, 49, who was diabetic, according to court paperwork, was released in between the time he left the jail and when he died.
Per state standards, that would not meet the definition of in-custody death.
It remains unclear how Gutierrez died and his name has not yet appeared in the Harris County Medical Examiner’s online records.
The day before Gutierrez died, a judge found there was no longer probable cause to detain him on a charge of violating a protective order, so his release was pending.
But some people find the timing suspicious.
“It looks like they’re doing it again to willfully cover up how many deaths are happening in the jail,” Brandon Hanson, with Jailhouse Justice, an inmate rights group, said.