Bexar County Jail's Fatal Flaws Come to Light
Published: June 5, 2013
As Taylor’s family questions why he was taken to isolation instead of medical if he was in the throes of an overdose, current and former jail guards question how the current sheriff has decided to handle Taylor’s death: by sending one of their own to the Bexar County District Attorney’s office for prosecution.
Sheriff’s officials and the DA’s office confirmed authorities are considering charges against detention officer Ernesto Flores, accusing him of falsifying the unit’s logbook and pretending to make cell checks that video surveillance proves he did not do. A DA spokesman told the Current the office plans to take the case to a grand jury, seeking an indictment for tampering with an official government document, a third-degree felony.
Flores, who was fired in March, contends he fudged the books because a supervisor ordered him to just moments after guards discovered Taylor’s body. Former and current jailers who spoke with the Current call the practice “pencil-whipping,” describing it as a cover-your-ass move that was and is pervasive inside county lockup.
Flores maintains that he’s been scapegoated as Sheriff Susan Pamerleau attempts to scrub the jail’s image by publicly addressing problems at the facility.
“They’re blaming it on me, but I just happened to be standing by the book when this Taylor guy died,” Flores said last month. “Sarge told me to pencil-whip it, so I did.”
In 1999, a dumb high-school prank turned Tommy Taylor into a convicted felon.
Taylor had a group of friends over at his mother’s home in Mesa, Ariz., when a friend dropped in, either high or drunk, said mother Terie Taylor. They took the friend’s keys so he couldn’t drive. When the boy passed out on the couch, the guys lit the fringes at the bottom of his jeans with a lighter to wake him up – they called it a “hot foot.”
“He woke up and they all laughed. They thought they’d put the fire out and walked outside,” Terie said. “I was upstairs when I heard the fire alarm go off.”
The fire badly burned the boy’s leg. Taylor took the blame when his friend’s parents insisted on pressing charges, Terie said. Later that week, cops dragged him out of a high-school classroom in handcuffs, charging him with aggravated assault.
That’s how, at 17 years old, Taylor wound up in Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s infamous “Tent City” jail for three months. He missed his senior year, and during a spring break trip he couldn’t attend, his girlfriend cheated on him. Weeks later, she came back saying she was pregnant with his child, Terie said.
Naturally, Taylor’s family doubted the kid was his. “But Braiden came out with blond hair, blue eyes, and looked just like Tommy,” Terie said. “There was no denying it.”
In 2003, when Braiden was still a toddler, he fell into a swimming pool and drowned. “Tommy was quiet, introverted, and didn’t show his emotions much,” said sister Tonie Taylor Grindle. “But that was the first time I saw him hurt that bad.”
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