Officials at the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and the Gregg County Sheriff's Office confirmed today that 30-year-old Micah Aaron Garner died at the Longview lockup on Monday night.
The incident brings the total number of deaths in that facility to 10 since 2005. And it comes just six months after 33-year-old Amy Lynn Cowling died in the jail. Both had told jail officials they were addicted to methadone.
In a press release, Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said he had launched an investigation into Garner's death. Garner was booked into the jail on Friday after he was arrested for unauthorized use of a vehicle, forgery of a financial instrument, driving with a suspended/invalid license and failure to appear. He reported to jail officials that he was addicted to methadone and heroin, and officials put him on medical watch, where he was checked every 30 minutes. Cerliano said Garner had been booked into the jail 23 times since 2000, and he had a long history of drug addiction.
An autopsy and the investigation are pending, and Cerliano said no additional information would be available until those processes are complete.
"The public and the news media will be informed as information becomes available and is released by Sheriff Cerliano, Texas Rangers, and the Gregg County District Attorney’s Office," he said in the press release.
Adan Muñoz, executive director of the jail commission, said his agency received a copy of the required death-in-custody form that jails must submit when someone dies at the facility. The commission declined to release additional information, because Texas Rangers are investigating the case.
Cowling died at the jail just after Christmas last year. Like Garner, she told jail officials that she was addicted to methadone. But that drug is not allowed in the jail under the county doctor's orders. Autopsy reports showed Cowling died as a result of seizures she suffered during withdrawal from methadone and Xanax. A sheriff's investigation revealed that jailers had falsified observation logs, and a handful of jailers were fired or resigned.
Subsequent news reports also revealed an unusually high turnover rate among jailers in Gregg County, a factor that experts said could indicate deeper problems at the lockup. In response, lawmakers during the just-ended regular legislative session approved a new law that will require jails to report staff turnover numbers to the jail commission. The data will be one of a number of factors the commission uses to determine which facilities require closer oversight and assistance.