2 suicides, 1 attempt at Bexar County Jail in 9 days, officials confirm

Sheriff's Office declines to comment further on rash of custodial deaths

Mariah Medina tracks the recent deaths at the Bexar County Jail

SAN ANTONIO – A previously unpublicized suicide attempt at the Bexar County Jail on Monday brings the total of suicides and suicide attempts at the jail to at least three in the past nine days, sheriff's officials said.

Hours after the Sheriff's Office confirmed Tuesday that inmate Enrique Perez, 25, hanged himself, the Defenders got word another inmate had attempted suicide around the same time. Sources said that inmate, Zachary Zamora, who is in jail on an arson charge, threw himself from a top tier of a unit at the Bexar County Jail, resulting in his hospitalization.

The Sheriff's Office said Zamora had been transferred to the main jail after getting into a fight in the jail annex and had been placed on Emergency Management Intensive Supervision.

"The inmate then jumped from the top tier in the unit in an attempt to commit suicide, which resulted in the inmate sustaining non-life threatening injuries to his lower extremities," the Sheriff's Office said in a statement Tuesday morning.

A source estimates the inmate fell approximately 20 feet. He has since been released from the hospital and will be evaluated by University Health System staff.

The same day of that inmate's attempted suicide, Perez, who was charged with his common-law wife's murder after leading investigators to her body in Lampasas County last week, was found hanging in his cell.

BCSO officials initially said Perez was found unresponsive by a cellmate around 9:30 p.m. Monday and had died shortly after. They did not indicate that Perez's death was an apparent suicide and only confirmed that he hanged himself after being pressed by the Defenders early Tuesday morning.

Perez was pronounced dead at approximately 10:30 p.m. Monday.

Perez's death and Zamora's attempted suicide come after inmate Ashanti Taylor, 19, was found hanging from a bed sheet in solitary confinement July 27. Taylor, the Defenders uncovered, had expressed and acted on suicidal tendencies on at least three occasions while in custody. Despite this, jail officials said she was not on suicide watch when she was found. 

She died nearly a week later.

University Health System and the Sheriff's Office have given conflicting statements on her care, both seemingly pointing the finger at each other as to why she wasn't on suicide watch and in solitary confinement when she was found hanging. UHS contends she was placed in solitary confinement against the recommendations of their doctors. 

The Sheriff's Office declined to say whether it planned on changing any of its policies due to the rash of suicides and attempted suicides at the jail in recent days. Sheriff Javier Salazar also declined to be interviewed about Perez's death on Tuesday.

Deputy Johnny Garcia, a spokesman for the agency, said the agency is "referring questions regarding the suicide to the statement."

When asked whether he still had faith in his jail administrator Capt. Avery Walker, Salazar said "yes" via email Tuesday.

In the last five years, 14 inmates have died by suicide at the jail before being convicted of the alleged crime for which they're incarcerated, according to data compiled by the Texas Justice Initiative. 

On average, inmates die within 13 days of being in custody, data compiled by the Texas Justice Initiative shows.

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About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.