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Galveston man pursing legal actions after being mistaken as escaped inmate and attacked by police K-9

PEARLAND, Texas (KTRK) — A Galveston man is taking legal action against the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice after he was mistaken for an escaped prisoner and tackled to the ground.

On May 8, Jeremie Cummins voluntarily left UTMB’s mental health unit after turning himself in. As he walked away, he said he heard a UTMB and TDCJ officer mistake him for an escaped prisoner. UTMB has a unit that specializes in prisoner care.

Cummins kept walking, but the officers called over their radios that there was an escaped prisoner, according to his attorney Albert Ruiz.

“That’s what made me say, ‘No, I’m not a prisoner. I’m not a prisoner. I just left the hospital, I’m going home,'” Cummins recalled.

He continued to walk and surveillance video shows officers chasing him and sending a K-9 officer after him. Cummins was taken to the ground and attacked by the dog. He said he was bitten on the face and started bleeding.

Body camera footage obtained by Ruiz shows Cummins on the ground yelling that he is not an escaped prisoner.

Seconds later, an officer was heard asking another officer, “so that’s not your guy?” Another officer was heard on the phone with someone asking, “so not a prisoner?”

“They are doing a count,” the officer at the scene told the person on the phone. “We’re having them do a count to verify it’s not, but it’s not. I know it’s not.”

“They didn’t check with their superiors,” Ruiz said. “They didn’t check with their roster or call someone at the hospital and say, ‘Do we have an escaped prisoner?’ They just saw him walking down the street and assumed he was.”

Ruiz said they kept Cummins on the ground for at least 20 minutes in the heat while they counted the prisoners at UTMB. There was not an escaped prisoner.

From there, they put him in the back of a police car and accidentally locked themselves out of the car. Cummins had a seizure in the back of the car.

Despite what happened, police still charged Cummins with resisting arrest and took him to jail.

“They did absolutely everything wrong every step of the way,” Ruiz said.

He said he was placed on suicide watch and kept in a cell without any clothes for two days.

“I didn’t run,” Cummins said. “I have mental issues, but I’m not crazy. I didn’t run. I would have been crazy to run. I’m an unarmed, black man running and they think I’m a prisoner. They would killed for nothing.”

The criminal complaint has since been withdrawn.

Ruiz said they plan to file an official notice of intent to take legal action against both UTMB and TDCJ this week. He said if they take action against the officers involved and compensate his client, they will not pursue legal action. If they don’t, they plan to file a federal lawsuit.

They did not get any information about the status of the officers involved.

The lawyer questions why UTMB’s mental health officer was not called to the scene for assistance.

“There’s a lot of talk about dealing with people with mental health issues, but there’s not a lot of action,” Ruiz said. “They’re investing money in these protocols and ways to help these people, but they’re not implementing the plan.”

In a statement, TDCJ said:

“On May 8, 2022, TDCJ correctional officers observed a non-TDCJ patient from UTMB-Galveston walking suspiciously toward the prison side of the hospital. UTMB police were notified and responded. Further questions about UTMB’s response and detention of the patient must be directed to the UTMB police.”

UTMB declined to comment due to pending litigation.

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