LAWSUIT FOR DEATH OF TONY CHANCE ROSS SETTLED – Homicide due to use of Excessive Force While in Custody
Upon the two-year anniversary of their son’s death, Tony and Shelley Ross settled a lawsuit filed as a result of the death of their son while in custody of the Hopkins County Jail. On Monday, March 6, 2017, a legal settlement was reached by the parents and Estate of Tony Chance Ross for $415,000 to be paid by the City of Sulphur Springs, Hopkins County, Texas and their respective insurance carriers on behalf of all defendants. The federal lawsuit was filed as a result of the death of Tony Chance Ross on March 6, 2015 after his arrest by City of Sulphur Springs police officers and while being placed in the Hopkins County Jail.
The Ross family retained experts in the field of police policy and procedures, use of force (including Conducted Electrical Weapons, i.e., TASER®), forensic pathology, and jail policy and procedures to review materials provided from various sources, including the Sulphur Springs Police Department and Hopkins County Sheriffs Department. The four experts reviewed the Sulphur Springs police car and Hopkins County jail recordings, the involved officer and witness statements, the complete autopsy report, and Tony Chance Ross’ medical records.
Upon review, it became clear upon his arrest Chance Ross was suffering from the effects of either a mental health crisis and/or the use of a drug. At least one of the police officers recognized Chance Ross. The defendant police officers’ description of Chance Ross’ behavior and conduct was such that upon his arrest, medical intervention was mandated and should have been pursued. Instead, the defendant police officers took him to the Hopkins County Jail, and missed a critical opportunity to assess his physical and mental condition, and treat him.
At the jail, Hopkins County deputies and jail staff are viewed as having failed to exercise their duties and permitted the police officers to direct the placement of Chance Ross into a cell for violent persons. Upon being placed in the cell with his hands handcuffed behind him, the defendant police officers began to strip him and when he resisted, the officers were joined by Hopkins County deputies and jail personnel to hold him down while one defendant police officer applied a TASER® against Chance Ross seven times in the span of approximately 66 seconds.
The repeated and almost continuous application of the TASER® was contrary to the weapon’s manufacturer’s approved operations manual and training procedures. The repeated use of the TASER® worsened an already critical health situation and accelerated the onset of a sudden cardiovascular collapse and the beginning of organ failure.
Chance Ross stopped resisting his being stripped and once the officers removed the handcuffs they exited the cell and left him lying on the floor. Neither the police officers nor the deputies or jail personnel checked his physical condition despite their training and abandoned Chance Ross in his cell. It was not until after approximately 17 minutes since leaving him lying on the floor, that the officers, not the jail staff, looked in and realized Chance had not moved. An officer banged on his cell door and after not seeing a response, jail staff was called to open the door.
Based upon all the information obtained, the forensic pathologist concluded that Tony Chance Ross probably died in the jail and while resuscitated, never regained consciousness.
The lawsuit was filed by the Ross family in the hopes of preventing future incidents as what happened with their son, Chance. In the interim since filing the lawsuit in February 2016, Tony and Shelley Ross have not been able to grieve and put this experience behind them as the lawsuit grinded on.
The settlement agreement with the defendants was reached as the Ross’ came to accept that they were the only ones interested in understanding what happened and possibly how to prevent it from occurring anew.
The Civil Action number for the lawsuit is 4:16-cv-00095-ALM-CAN; and the abbreviated style is Shelley Ross, et al. v. Hopkins County, Texas, et al. This case was filed in the United States District Court, Sherman Division for the Eastern District of Texas.