County cleared in wrongful death lawsuit

By Lisa Treiber-Walter —

Gillespie County was cleared of blame in a “wrongful death” lawsuit filed by the family of an inmate who hung himself and died back in 2011.

While most federal civil rights trials typically take at least three to four hours to be decided, the jury in  last week’s three-day trial deliberated for 50 minutes before returning its decision that Gillespie County was not at fault in prisoner Damion Michael Schroeder’s death.

“When the jury looked at all the facts — how we had cared for the inmate,” that’s what helped them reach their decision so quickly, said Charles S. Frigerio, P.C., the attorney and president of the firm that has represented the county for the past 20 years on legal matters concerning law enforcement.

Schroeder’s family had filed the suit claiming the county, its sheriff and deputies didn’t do enough to prevent his suicide, in spite of observing suicidal behavior.

Schroeder’s arrest, death

Frigerio said Schroeder was arrested in Mason County on May 5, 2011, after a high-speed chase with officers ended in a crash.

Schroeder had reportedly been riding a motorcycle and attempted to evade arrest by speeding to over 130 miles per hour while he was under the influence of methamphetamine. He lost control of the bike and crashed in his attempted escape, Frigerio said.

Schroeder was transported by Mason County EMS to Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg for treatment of injuries.

Though still intoxicated on methamphetamines, Schroeder was released that same day into the custody of the Gillespie County Jail, where he was placed into a conventional, individual jail cell and held on two no-bond, out-of-county warrants from Bexar County and Travis County for separate, unrelated controlled substance violations, Frigerio said.

Jailers reported that they observed Schroeder tearing up a blanket and displaying “erratic, suicidal behavior” early on May 6, 2011, court documents said.

Between checks every 15 minutes, Schroeder hung himself with jail-issued socks.

Found not breathing, Schroeder was taken to Hill Country Memorial for emergency care and was resuscitated, but remained unconscious and on life support, the suit states.

Schroeder died four days later on May 10, 2011, at University Hospital in San Antonio.

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