Monday afternoon, June 22, a Hopkins County Grand Jury refused to indict six (6) law enforcement officers—three Sulphur Springs Police officers and three Hopkins County Sheriff’s jailers. A special prosecutor, Collin County Assistant District Attorney Bill Wirske presented the case to the Grand Jury. Monday after the decision of the Grand Jury, Wirske told KSST News that he had given the Chance Ross family every opportunity to present their information, viewed all video, and received “an excellent thorough investigation” from Ranger John Vance. He said that in the video, he saw no crime committed. He pointed out that the ruling of homicide by the medical examiner did not carry the same definition that is commonly used for homicide. Wirske said the evidence pointed to excited delirium. Excited delirium was presented as a cause of death by the medical examiner in his autopsy.
Sulphur Springs Chief of Police, Jay Sanders, said he is “very happy for those men…thankful.” He appreciated the Grand Jury and Ranger Vance for his investigation.
The investigation of Ross’ death began in March of this year when Ross died in a Tyler hospital a few days after having been transported there from Hopkins county Jail.
Ross, 34, was arrested early Friday evening March 6 by Sulphur Springs’ police officers who responded to a call on Whitworth Street of a shirtless man acting erratically. Prior to being booked into Hopkins County Jail he was placed in the padded violence cell where he remained for 11 minutes before being found face down and unresponsive. Officers were able to find a faint pulse and called EMS. CPR was stared at the jail and his pulse was stronger but he was not breathing on his own when he arrived at Hopkins County Memorial Hospital.
According to police reports, Ross was arrested when officers encountered him and he was said to have balled his fist and charged an officer. The officer tazed Ross but Ross was able to pull the wires out and fled. The officer pursued and a fight ensued. Officers said Ross was difficult to contain and they were forced to tazed him more than once. Ross continued to resist even when taken to jail according to Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jay Sanders.
Ross died Sunday March 8th in Trinity Mother Frances Hospital where he had been transferred from Hopkins County Memorial Hospital where he had been taken for emergency treatment following what seemed to be a cardiac arrest while in custody at Hopkins County Jail. A Tyler Justice of the Peace ordered an autopsy immediately following his death. At this time, KSST News is awaiting a call from the Smith County Justice of the Peace who ordered the autopsy.
The autopsy was conducted March 9th at 12:35 p.m. at the Tyler Forensic Center. The autopsy was requested by Smith County Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, Gary Alfred following Ross’ death on March 8, at 2:50 p.m. Dr. David L. Zimmerman was the forensic pathologist.
In his five page report, Dr. Zimmerman summarized his findings and opinion of the case as follows:
“The decedent was a 34-year-old man who was reportedly acting erratically and speaking nonsensically. He was taken into custody after a struggle and Taser deployment. He was taken to a jail facility where he continued to struggle with officers. A Taser was deployed in drive stun mode multiple times. After the struggle he was left in the cell alone. He was discovered unresponsive a short time later in the cell. He was transported to Mother Francis Hospital in Tyler, TX. While hospitalized he was diagnosed with hypotension, multi-organ failure, methamphetamine use, and rhabdomyolysis. His condition never improved and death was pronounced. A complete autopsy was performed.
“Significant finding at autopsy include numerous abrasions and bruises of the skin, and bruising of the mesentery of the small bowel. There is a pair of rectangular burns on the right palm of the hand. There are at least fourteen additional single and paired rectangular burns of the chest, back, and neck. Other findings at autopsy include an enlarged heart, and congestion and edema of the lungs.
“Postmortem toxicologic analysis is positive for methamphetamine.
“Given the autopsy and investigative finding, it is my opinion that the cause of death in this case is acute methamphetamine intoxication and physical restraint. The manner of death is homicide.
“This case has many features which indicate this may be a case of ‘excited delirium.’ Individuals experiencing ‘excited delirium’ express symptoms of bizarre and aggressive behavior, violence, unexpected physical strength, and hyperthermia. Most cases of ‘excited delirium’ involve stimulant drugs (methamphetamine, in this case). The sequence of events is nearly always the same in all accounts, delirium with agitation, sudden cessation of struggle, respiratory arrest, and death.”