A corrections supervisor fired a canister from a tear gas rifle inside a Lychner State Jail dorm at a crowd of inmates at short range, hitting an inmate in the shoulder and sending him to the hospital for burns and other injuries, according to records and interviews.Reading the details from Oberg's account, the episode exhibits not so much malicious behavior by the supervisor as confusion, frustration at facing a situation beyond his skill set to resolve, and a general lack of professionalism. In the absence of more able management, unit staff appeared to make stuff up as they went along instead of following their training, even though the inmates posed no immediate threat. Noted Oberg, in the video, "Waller and other staffers walk right through the inmates. They are clearly not being aggressive to the guards."
A video obtained by Ted Oberg Investigates shows the incidents leading up to the shot as well as the canister being fired from the tear gas gun into a crowd of largely motionless inmates, hitting one with a shower of sparks.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice's initial review of the incident, in which Lt. Cody Waller fired the canister on May 19 soon after 11:20 p.m., "revealed several mistakes," TDCJ officials told ABC-13.
Among those mistakes: That canister fired at the inmates is designed for outdoor use, not inside a dorm and that any "chemical agents should have been administered through the door rather than in the middle of the housing area," TDCJ officials said.
Waller was put on a 10-month probation on July 8 but kept on the job at the Humble-based facility.
It's hard to pin responsibility for any one incident on anybody besides the inmates and staff involved, but the diminution of experience and competence among TDCJ staff thanks to many years of high turnover to me is a likely secondary cause for this sort of event. We've heard much about the need for police to use de-escalation tactics at traffic stops to prevent events like the Sandra Bland arrest, but that skill's just as or more important for prison guards. And apparently nobody on duty at the Lyncher State Jail that night in May had the skills to de-escalate a tense-but-not-yet-violent situation.
See TDCJ's statement on the incident.