Houston Chronicle

In­mate’s death draws tears, ques­tions — and protests

Fam­ily doubts sui­cide af­ter man found hanged

- By Keri Blakinger

In a somber gath­er­ing punc­tu­ated by tears, pro­test­ers gath­ered out­side the Har­ris County Jail on Wed­nes­day, lob­bing ac­cu­sa­tions and de­mand­ing an­swers in the death of a 32-year-old in­mate ear­lier this week.

Vin­cent Young, a fa­ther of nine who would have turned 33 on Satur­day, was found dead in an in­fir­mary cell Mon­day evening. His death was ruled a sui­cide, but some who knew him are skep­ti­cal.

“I know my son wouldn’ t take his own life,” Vin­cent La­day said, break­ing down into sobs.

Ryan Sul­li­van, a spokesman for the Har­ris County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice, de­clined to com­ment on the case, cit­ing an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

He con­firmed that Young had filed many griev­ances dur­ing his var­i­ous jail stays, al­though he could not im­me­di­ately pro­vide specifics about any of them.

Guards mak­ing their rounds found Young’s body hang­ing by a bed sheet just af­ter 7 p.m., ac­cord­ing to the sher­iff ’s of­fice.

Young’s sup­port­ers — in­clud­ing lo­cal ac­tivist Quanell X — be­lieve there’s more to the story.

“In 2007 and 2008, he was bru­tally beaten in­side the Har­ris County Jail,” Quanell said. “They white­washed that in­ves­ti­ga­tion, swept it un­der the rug, flushed it down the damn toi­let be­cause they don’t give a damn about young black men be­ing beaten in this jail.”

Al­though he con­tin­ued to bounce in and out of jail for an­other decade, Young

re­port­edly feared for his safety.

“He specif­i­cally told his mother, his wife and his fa­ther that they told him if he ever came back they were go­ing to kill him,” Quanell said. “He specif­i­cally told them, ‘If I come up dead, it’s not a sui­cide.’ ”

Af­ter see­ing pic­tures of Young’s body, his sup­port­ers have more ques­tions.

“He has sus­pi­cious bruis­ing on his body, a se­verely busted lip,” Quanell said, adding that the jail has a “sys­temic his­tory” of abuse. “We are de­mand­ing that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice step in and take over this in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Young, who was fac­ing drug and gun charges, had been booked into the county jail 31 sep­a­rate times — part of a lengthy ar­rest record dat­ing back to at least 2002.

At the time of his death, Young was in the in­fir­mary for detox­i­fi­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to the sher­iff ’s of­fice.

But ac­cord­ing to his fam­ily, he was set to be bailed out — and he knew it.

“My hus­band was sup­posed to be re­leased the next day,” Kim Young tear­fully told the crowd out­side the jail. “When I went and saw him, I let him know this is when he was com­ing home.”

Black Lives Mat­ter ac­tivist Ash­ton Woods said the case’s in­con­sis­ten­cies need to be ad­dressed.

“We want Sher­iff Ed Gon­za­lez to an­swer the ques­tions. We want video, we want DNA ev­i­dence, and we will not stop un­til this fam­ily has all the an­swers they de­serve,” he said.

“This is in­jus­tice. This is what it means, this is what it looks like. We de­mand jus­tice for Vin­cent Young.”

Gon­za­lez tweeted his con­do­lences Wed­nes­day evening. “Very sorry for the loss. Thoughts & prayers are with the fam­ily. Open to meet w/you and an­swer ques­tions.”

Young’s is the most re­cent in a string of in-cus­tody deaths in Har­ris County in re­cent years. Be­tween 2005 and 2015, 150 in­mates died in the county jail, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by the Texas Jus­tice Ini­tia­tive.

In 2016, the jail made na­tional news when in­mate Patrick Brown was beaten to death a day af­ter he was locked up on a mis­de­meanor as­sault charge.

Af­ter­ward, the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice launched an in­quiry ex­am­in­ing the jail con­di­tions that led to four deaths from as­sault or head trauma in a one-year pe­riod un­der for­mer Sher­iff Ron Hick­man.

De­spite the con­tro­versy, Sul­li­van was quick to point out that the fa­cil­ity’s sui­cide rate is low in com­par­i­son to other large jails.

Na­tion­wide, 46 in­mates per 100,000 kill them­selves in county jails, ac­cord­ing to the Bu­reau of Jus­tice Statis­tics. Sul­li­van said Har­ris County’s rate is roughly one-third that.

“The num­ber of sui­cides we stop is much more stag­ger­ing than the num­bers that are suc­cess­ful,” he added.

That was lit­tle con­so­la­tion to Young’s friends and fam­ily.

 ?? Steve Gon­za­les / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle ?? Vin­cent La­day is con­soled by his son, Dex­ter Wy­ble-La­day, af­ter break­ing down as he talked about his son Vin­cent Young, who was found dead in an in­fir­mary cell on Mon­day. Black Lives Mat­ter held a protest out­side the Har­ris County Jail.
Steve Gon­za­les / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle Vin­cent La­day is con­soled by his son, Dex­ter Wy­ble-La­day, af­ter break­ing down as he talked about his son Vin­cent Young, who was found dead in an in­fir­mary cell on Mon­day. Black Lives Mat­ter held a protest out­side the Har­ris County Jail.
 ?? Steve Gon­za­les / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle ?? Black Lives Mat­ter pro­test­ers ral­lied Wed­nes­day out­side Har­ris County Jail, call­ing for an­swers in what they say are in­con­sis­ten­cies in Vin­cent Young’s death.
Steve Gon­za­les / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle Black Lives Mat­ter pro­test­ers ral­lied Wed­nes­day out­side Har­ris County Jail, call­ing for an­swers in what they say are in­con­sis­ten­cies in Vin­cent Young’s death.

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