SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – Smith County agreed to pay a $500,000 settlement to the family of a man who died while in custody at the Smith County Jail.

32-year-old Teddy Parker was booked on a public intoxication charge on May 14, 2017. About half an hour after he was booked, he was carried out unconscious on a stretcher. He died two days later.

The city of Tyler has since paid $300,000 to settle its portion of the lawsuit. Now, Smith County will pay $500,000 “for the purpose of terminating and preventing involvement in litigation based on the incident of May 14, 2017.” The settlements are not an admission of guilt.

WHAT HAPPENED

When Parker was being booked in, jail employees and arresting officers tried to remove his earrings, which for some reason were not budging. Parker cried out in pain and sometimes jerked his head when they pulled and twisted on the earrings. He was told to stay calm and be still.

While being held down on the floor of a padded cell and law officers pulling on the earrings, Parker spat. At least one person immediately pulled Parker’s shirt up to his face to prevent him from spitting again.

A short time later, Parker, who had earlier admitted to taking meth, turned purple and became unresponsive.

Jailers and police officers were not sure if he was still breathing and checked for a pulse. They called for emergency medical personnel, who quickly arrived.

A lawsuit alleges the law officer or officers who pulled Parker’s shirt up, pressed their hands down on his face, which cut off his air supply. The officers used excessive force and others did not stop what was happening, the lawsuit says. It also accuses the law officers of purposefully altering or wording their reports to hide wrongdoing.

None of the jailers or police officers have been found guilty of doing anything wrong. A medical examiner concluded that “the toxic effects of methamphetamine” killed Parker.

The medical examiner ruled the cause of death as “accident.”

THE SETTLEMENTS

The city’s settlement was voted on as a consent agenda item on Dec. 9, 2020. The final item on the consent agenda — C-A-16 – was: “Request that the City Council consider ratifying the Settlement of the Christine Parker v. City of Tyler and Smith County, Texas, et al. lawsuit.”

At 2 hours and 52 minutes into the meeting, Mayor Don Warren called for the council to act on the Consent Agenda. Councilman Bob Westbrook made a motion to approve the items (with the exception of one) and Broderick McGee seconded the motion.

The council then voted unanimously by voice to do so. It all took about one minute.

Before they settled, Smith County released a statement saying that “Smith County – as a policy – does not comment on pending or threatened litigation and will not try this matter in any forum other than the appropriate court setting. Nevertheless, Smith County always grieves the loss of any life, and the same is true in this instance. Smith County looks forward to presenting all of the evidence in this matter to a jury for deliberation and decision, and is confident that a jury will support our conclusion that neither the county, nor any individual acting on behalf of or through the county, caused the death of Teddy Wayne Parker.”

Smith County’s settlement was signed on Dec. 14, 2021.

This settlement with the county will go to Christine Parker, who is Teddy’s mother and the administrator of his estate.