Sheriff: 'There are people in my jail who don't belong there'
SAN ANTONIO —
Their 84-year-old mother shot and killed during a swat stand-off. Their mentally ill brother later died in custody while waiting to get into a State Hospital. Fox San Antonio's Yami Virgin uncovers how this tragedy could happen to any Texas family dealing with a loved one who suffers from mental health issues.
"I never in my wildest dreams thought that my mother would be killed by the hands of police," said Walter Macias, whose mother died in a stand-off tragedy.
More than 24 hours after the stand-off between 84-year old Amelia Macias' son and authorities, she would end up dead from multiple rifle wounds believed to have come from DPS SWAT.
"She was completely innocent," said Macias.
Walter says his family's tragedy started when he reported his brother, 61-year old Fernando Macias, who suffered from mental illness, was trying to buy a weapon, but they say no one from the State's Adult Protective Services took action.
"My mother, 84-year old in a wheel chair, that is in danger from someone trying to get an assault rifle. They have the power to get her out with a warrant," said Macias.
After the stand off in March, Fernando Macias was ordered to the State Hospital in Vernon. He sat waiting at the Bexar County Jail to be transferred for 9 months, until his death last month.
"I believe he suffered a lot," said Macias.
Walter Macias says his brother went between the detention center and the hospital 3 different times. Macias says a jail was not the place for his brother, who had not been convicted or found competent to stand trial.
"The system is so overcrowded with mental health patients that can't get to treatment like my brother," said Macias.
Sheriff Javier Salazar agrees.
"Now, while I can't comment too much on the specifics of that case in particular due to the ongoing nature of it, what I can tell you from the Sheriff's perspective is that there are people in my jail who don't belong there," said Sheriff Javier Salazar, Bexar County Sheriff's Office.
In fact, Salazar tells Fox San Antonio that as of today 120 inmates are classified as having mental health issues.
"And somewhere, somebody, needs to be making room for them," said Salazar.
When Fox San Antonio asked the Sheriff if they are fully equipped to take care of people who have mental health issues, Sheriff Salazar's response was, "We're not equipped for that. We're a detention facility, and as such, we created teams like my detention mental health team DMET. That are specially trained and they make do with what they have. But at the end of the day, these folks need to be in a mental health facility."
The sheriff says right now the jail is almost at capacity, mix that with a volatile situation and 26 percent of the population suffering from mental health issues, and you have a recipe for trouble.
"You add people to the mix that don't belong there, that have a mental health issue, that are there, again, simply because somewhere else somebody hasn't made room for them, that's a tragedy waiting to happen," said Salazar.
"I think as a system, the system is failing these folks," said Salazar.
Something the Macias family agrees with...
"The system failed," said Macias.
Salazar says the majority of those in the jail with mental health issues are there for misdemeanors with low bonds, no reason for them to be sitting in jail in some cases for more than 6 months.