Questions linger after inmate's beating death at Harris Co. Jail

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Questions are being raised about the response after an inmate was beaten and later died at the Harris Co. Jail.

In his modest art studio, Chris Smith chokes up about his best friend, Patrick Brown.

"Pat had a very good heart..." say Smith, before catching himself and choking back tears.

Brown was arrested last week for allegedly stealing a guitar. But he never even had a chance to post bond. While he was still in a Harris County Jail holding cell, investigators believe two other inmates, Curtis Maxwell and Ebenezer Nah, beat Brown until he was unresponsive. Brown died at the hospital.

"They beat him senseless. They had to have, to leave him brain dead," said neighbor Heston Knight, who added that Brown had some problems with drugs and parties but was never violent.

Court records show the assault was captured on the Harris County Jail surveillance video, but jailers didn't see the video in real time. Instead, they were notified of a medical emergency about 13 minutes after it happened.

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Investigators say there were 20 men in the holding cell when the attack occurred, but no one knows why jailers were not alerted sooner.

"I don't know that anybody is watching it," said Sheriff Ron Hickman when asked why nobody was monitoring the video fee. "This is a recorded camera system so this is not a bank of camera monitors where someone is watching what's going on," he explained.

Records show by the time investigators found the assault on jail video, one of the suspects, Nah, had already bonded out of jail. Nah was re-arrested, and both inmates are now facing new charges. But Smith says Brown shouldn't have died.

"With the video, with all the witnesses, guards? Where are the guards? Does somebody not hear anything going on?" says an exasperated Smith.

The sheriff admits there are just not enough jailers working.

"We're particularly short staffed every day," says Hickman, who added there are several investigations on going. So far, no jailers have been disciplined. It's unclear how long the investigation will take.
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