Man pursuing legal action after he says police mistook him as inmate

Mycah Hatfield Image
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Galveston man attacked by police K9 after being mistaken for escaped inmate
Body camera footage obtained by the attorney shows Jeremie Cummins on the ground shouting that he is not an escaped inmate.

PEARLAND, Texas (KTRK) -- A Galveston man is pursuing legal action against University of Texas Medical Branch and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice after being mistaken for an escaped inmate and tackled to the ground.

On May 8, Jeremie Cummins was voluntarily leaving UTMB's mental health unit after voluntarily checking himself in. As he walked away, he said he heard a UTMB and TDCJ officer mistake him for an escaped inmate. UTMB has a unit that specializes in inmate care.

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

"That's what made me say, 'No, I'm not an inmate. I'm not an inmate. I just left the hospital I'm going home,'" Cummins recalled.

He continued walking and surveillance video shows officers pursuing 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, shouting that he is not an escaped inmate.

Seconds later, an officer was heard asking another officer, "so this is not y'all guy?" Another officer was heard on the phone with someone who asked, "so not a prisoner?"

"They're doing a count," the officer on the scene told the person on the phone. "We are making 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 in to anyone at the hospital and say, 'Do we have an escaped inmate?' They just saw him walking down the street and assumed he was."

Ruiz said they kept Cummins on the ground in the heat for at least 20 minutes while they did a count of the inmates at UTMB. There was not an escaped inmate.

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 absolutely did everything wrong every step of the way," Ruiz said.

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

"I didn't run," Cummins said. "I have mental problems 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 an inmate. They would have killed me for nothing."

The criminal charge has since been dropped.

Ruiz said they plan to file an official notice of an 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 do not, they plan to file a federal lawsuit..

They have not gotten any information about the status of the officers involved.

The attorney is questioning 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 into 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 noticed a non-TDCJ patient of UTMB-Galveston walking suspiciously toward the prison side of the hospital. UTMB police were notified and responded. Further questions regarding UTMB's response and apprehension of the patient should be directed to UTMB police."

UTMB declined to comment because of pending litigation.

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