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Attorney for Anthony Johnson Jr.’s family expects criminal charges in jail homicide

Anthony Johnson Jr.'s nephew, Corbin Johnson, speaks during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Miranda Suarez
Anthony Johnson Jr.'s nephew, Corbin Johnson, speaks at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Family attorney Daryl Washington is standing with him outside the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center in downtown Fort Worth.

Daryl Washington, attorney for the family of Anthony Johnson Jr., expressed confidence criminal charges will be filed against at least two people in the case.

Last week, the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Johnson’s death in jail custody a homicide. The cause of death was mechanical and chemical asphyxia.

Jailers pepper sprayed Johnson, and one knelt on his back while he was restrained, after an altercation with detention officers in April. In the partial video released to the public, Johnson told the detention officers he couldn’t breathe.

Jacqualyne Johnson, Anthony's mother, addressed the jailers at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“You killed my son. What you did is a pattern and practice. You cannot tell me that wasn’t going on before," she said.

Anthony's 10-year-old nephew Corbin Johnson also wanted to speak Tuesday. He expressed confusion at why his uncle had to die.

"Why did they have to kill him?" he asked.

Sheriff Bill Waybourn initially fired two jailers involved in the incident: Officer Rafael Moreno, who knelt on Johnson, and his supervisor Lt. Joel Garcia, who filmed the incident on a phone. Filming such altercations is part of department policy, according to Waybourn.

Waybourn later reinstated them and put them on leave on the advice of the county DA’s office, to better follow the civil service rules dictating discipline and firing.

Pastor Michael Bell with the Unity In The Community Coalition said at the press conference Waybourn must step down.

“He needs to resign immediately for the good of all Tarrant County citizens,” Bell said.

Johnson's sister Janell said there is a lack of mental health care in the Tarrant County Jail, especially for veterans and Black people. Her brother was a Marine.

“If that’s not the case, come out here and prove it,” Janell said.

It’s unclear what will happen next. Garcia was also facing discipline for an unspecified matter not related to Johnson’s death, according to county officials and his attorney.

In a statement over the weekend, Garcia’s attorney, Randy Moore, defended his client’s actions.

“Garcia followed stated policy and practice in his limited involvement in this matter,” Moore said. “He is saddened by the outcome as well as the public persecution he has received prior to a complete investigation being conducted and release of the full video along with policies and training actually practiced at Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office.”

Washington said the county should also hold other jailers involved accountable: “Why is it only Garcia and Moreno who’s been terminated?”

Johnson’s family has consistently called for greater transparency and accountability for his death. Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare ejected Johnson’s sister from a county Commissioners Court meeting last week when she confronted him directly during a public comment period.

On Tuesday, his family continued to call for the release of the full video of what happened to Johnson, and the jail's medical response to the altercation.

"The video needs to be released. I don’t know why it still hasn’t been released," his sister Chanell Johnson said.

Johnson is one of at least six people who have died in county custody this year, and one of at least 65 to have died since Waybourn took office in 2017. He’s running for a third term as sheriff this year.

Deaths and allegations of abuse and neglect behind bars have cost the county $2.8 million in legal settlements in recent years.

Democratic County Commissioner Alisa Simmons has called for a federal investigation of the jail system. She said in a press release Friday she’s meeting with the Department of Justice this week.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey has joined Simmons’ calls for a DOJ investigation.

“At this point, only an immediate investigation into the disturbing sequence of deaths at the facility can reinstate accountability in Tarrant County Jail,” he wrote in a letter to the DOJ dated May 23.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Tarrant County accountability reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.