The other cases were also closed despite troubling autopsy results.
The Ranger who reviewed the death of Lorenzo Juarez outside Austin learned from pathologists that he had petechial hemorrhaging — tiny pin pricks of blood in the eyes that also suggest strangulation — while being arrested in 2018. Mr. Juarez, 47, was on meth and had been swinging a metal pipe by the side of a road when the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene. One deputy bore down on Mr. Juarez with a forearm against the base of his neck, and others put weight on him as he was given a dose of Versed, a sedative, by paramedics.
But after the autopsy report, the Ranger, Brent Barina, documented no effort to re-interview the deputies or otherwise seek an explanation for why capillaries in Mr. Juarez’s eyes might have burst. The medical examiner determined that the death was an accident caused by methamphetamine but noted a “component of asphyxia.”
The Ranger who investigated the death of Wesley Manning, 40, turned in a detailed review of that case, which unfolded on Rattlesnake Point Road in Aransas County, near Corpus Christi, in 2015.
In a 59-page report based on 12 interviews and multiple videos, he recounted how sheriff’s deputies and police officers who believed that Mr. Manning was preventing his girlfriend from receiving medical care shocked him twice with a stun gun, doused him with pepper spray, threw him to the ground, dug a baton into his neck, put him in handcuffs, pushed a knee into his back, jammed fingers into the pressure points behind his jaw, punched him and restrained his legs before he stopped breathing.
The Ranger, Antonio DeLuna, also noted that the medical examiner ruled the death a homicide caused by “sudden cardiac death following restraint procedures.” But he did not include an additional detail from the forensic exam: that a piece of the cartilage around his voice box was fractured, another warning sign that death investigators are trained to look for.
Despite the homicide ruling and the otherwise thorough investigation, the outcome was the same as in the other cases. The Ranger presented to a grand jury, which issued no charges.
A Lack of Specialists
Despite its large population and land area, Texas employs about 165 Rangers statewide — the Houston Police Department, by comparison, has 5,300 sworn officers — and most of the Rangers work as generalists, investigating major crimes and public corruption cases and in-custody deaths depending on the day.