5 Fort Worth officers fired, 2 suspended after in-custody death

Seven Fort Worth police officers could face criminal charges for the drug overdose death of a suspect who was in custody.

Five of the officers were fired, and two more were suspended. The department says a grand jury will review the case involving the July 2018 death of 55-year-old Christopher Lowe after he was arrested when a family says he terrorized them. The medical examiner says Lowe died of "acute cocaine intoxication.”

While en route to the police station, Lowe began to complain about medical issues. But the officers kept him handcuffed in the back seat of a patrol car without medical aid. Only when he was later found unresponsive did the officers summon an ambulance, and the man was taken to a hospital where he died.

Officers T. Stephens, D. Pritzker, C. Golden, H. Fellhauer, and M. Miller were all terminated. Officer S. Smith was suspended for 90 days while Officer A. Sharf was suspended five days.

A news release cites “multiple violations of departmental policy” and that “the actions taken by the officers” were “not in accordance with the values of the Fort Worth Police Department or the standards the citizens of Fort Worth have for their police department.”

The incident on Griggs Avenue got almost no attention when it happened. It was late July just before 11 p.m. when police answered a call about a man trying to break into a house. They arrived and arrested Lowe without incident.

Bob Ray Sanders co-chairs a task force now dealing with Fort Worth Police and Race Relations. He’s repeatedly called upon police to release video and audio of the incident, but it was withheld at the request of the victim’s family.

“We’re not getting full transparency. I don’t feel like I really know what happened yet,” Sander said. “I think the community is going to be pleased that there was some drastic action taken by the department for a change. But the community is going to have more questions. And one of the questions is why can’t we see the video?”

Faviola Cendejas called 911 that night and believes the officers were simply doing their job. She says Lowe was banging on their house with a pipe and was hitting a car with it.

“They came and protected my family because I have a baby with me and I have a little boy who was scared,” she said. “And that man just came to my door banging on the door and acting crazy. And I called them and they came quickly.”

All officers who were fired reportedly plan to appeal the decision.