Tarrant County inmate dies after being pepper-sprayed in fight during contraband check

An inmate died after he was pepper-sprayed while fighting with detention officers at the Tarrant County Jail during a check for contraband, the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

Anthony Johnson, 31, died just before 10 a.m. Sunday, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Jailers were conducting what the sheriff’s office called routine contraband checks in cells just before 9 a.m. Sunday morning when Johnson refused to exit his cell so it could be searched, according to the release. He began fighting with detention officers and they used the pepper spray “to assist in bringing the inmate under control,” the sheriff’s office said.

After he was pepper-sprayed, Johnson was examined by John Peter Smith Hospital medical staff working at the jail and was not responsive, the release said.

Medical staff performed CPR and Johnson was taken to JPS, where he died.

The medical examiner’s office will determine the cause of death.

The Texas Rangers will be leading the investigation of the in-custody death.

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Johnson was arrested Friday by Saginaw police on charges of possession of a controlled substance in penalty group 1, tampering /fabricating physical evidence with intent to impair and evading arrest or detention and was taken to the Tarrant County Jail on Saturday, according to the release.

The sheriff’s office said Johnson was arrested after police responded to a call about a man standing in an intersection wielding a knife at a driver. When officers arrived, the sheriff’s office said, he attempted to flee on foot.

A detention officer was also injured during the incident at the jail and was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, the sheriff’s office said.