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5 Fort Worth police officers fired over in-custody death; 2 others suspended

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Fort Worth Police Department fired five officers and suspended two others over a man’s in-custody death last summer, the department announced on Tuesday.

The department identified the fired officers as: T. Stephens, D. Pritzker, C. Golden, H. Fellhauer and M. Miller.

The suspended officers were officer S. Smith and officer A. Scharf. Smith was suspended 90 days, while Scharf was suspended five days. In accepting the 90-day suspension, Smith forfeited his right to appeal the punishment

The incident happened the night of July 26, 2018, when officers responded to a prowler call in the 3300 block of Griggs Avenue. A 911 caller reported that a man was trying to break into a home.

Officers arrived and took 55-year-old Christopher Lowe into custody. After officers put Lowe in handcuffs, he complained of medical issues, according to police.

Officers put him in the back of the patrol vehicle, “but no medical aid was summoned,” the department said.

After finishing their investigation, the officers found the man unresponsive in the back of the patrol vehicle. He was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, where he died.

The police department’s internal investigation found “multiple violations of departmental policy, including failure to protect the rights of persons in police custody.”

“Anytime there is a loss of life during any police contact we ensure that a thorough and fair investigation is conducted,” the department announced in a news release. “The sanctity of life is the most important principle to the Fort Worth Police Department at all times.”

Pastors Kyev Tatum and Kenneth Jones, Jr. are members of the Fort Worth Police Chief’s Policy Advisory Committee. They regularly meet with the department’s top brass to review procedures.

Tatum said Tuesday’s disciplinary action “serves as an example of how other cities can get it right.”

Tatum and Jones said the department was transparent with them about the ongoing investigation. “We were in there and we were saying that policy and procedures were not followed to the letter,” Jones said.

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