Humble, TX – A prison guard who fired a tear gas canister directly at an inmate has been placed on desk duty after local media began investigating the incident. In the video taken on May 19th, Lt. Cody Waller walks up to a group of “largely motionless inmates” and fires the canister, striking an inmate in the chest at close range.
The searing projectile, slightly larger than a stick of butter, appears to burn a hole in the inmate as it sparks for a few seconds. He suffered burns and other injuries.
Initially, Waller was placed on probation and still served in the same prison unit at Pam Lynchner State Prison. It was only after a whistleblower sent the video to ABC13, prompting public scrutiny, that Waller was placed on desk duty. Incredibly, the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) says that pulling the trigger was not wrong, although other mistakes were made.
In particular, that tear gas was designed for outdoor use, not for inside a dorm. And chemical agents should not be fired in the middle of an open room, only through a slot in the door.
Lt. Waller displays a shocking level of savagery as he fires the canister at head level into the group of standing inmates at close range. It could have easily struck someone in the face, which would have killed or severely maimed the inmate.
The incident was prompted by a racial dispute between Hispanic and African-American inmates. The TDCJ says the latter group threatened to jump the former once the lights were out. The Hispanics then refused to “rack up” and go to bed as ordered. They did comply with orders to move away from the door and allowed staffers to walk freely. They were then cornered by Lt. Waller who shot the tear gas canister.
The inmates are clearly not being aggressive to the guards, who walk right through them. The guards made no move to stop the threats between inmates.
Eldrick Brass, a former Lieutenant at the Lynchner prison, said that other measures could have been taken, such as removing the inmates from the general population. Waller’s use of the tear gas canister was wrong, he said.
“You have right and you have wrong, and this is definitely wrong. This type of behavior is unacceptable.
It wasn’t warranted. You clearly see the offenders are not being aggressive; they’re not cursing at staff, they’re not doing any of that.”
ABC13 sent the TDCJ a copy of their own video, gave them days to review it and agree to an interview, but they refused. Instead, they sent a statement saying that the video may not tell the whole story and that some officers have been retrained.
This seeming acceptance of Lt. Waller’s actions is what allows unprovoked brutality to continue in prisons all over the U.S. Most of the prisoners at Pam Lynchner State Prison, just like everywhere else in the epidemic of American mass incarceration, are probably there for victimless crimes.