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Sheriff addresses jailers' arrests

Posted at 9:06 PM, Oct 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-23 23:22:18-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Nueces County Sheriff John Hooper addressed Wednesday's arrests of three county jailers over actions that happened around the time that an inmate died.

"There was a investigation into a custodial death," Sheriff Hooper said "The Texas Rangers investigated that death, and they didn't find any actions on our part that contributed to that death."

The deceased is 49-year-old David Johnson. He was an inmate at the Nueces County Jail when he died in December.

"The medical examiner's ruling was that it was a death of natural causes," Sheriff Hooper said. "He had numerous medical issues."

Jailers William Fielder and Richard Culp and former jailer Javier Zapata, Jr. were indicted Thursday and arrested today on charges of official oppression and tampering with a government record. Zapata faces an additional charge of invasive visual recording. Fielder and Culp turned themselves into the sheriff's office around 11:00 a.m. Deputies met Zapata while he was at his new job at the Public Works building in Robstown and arrested him. All three men are out of jail on $10,000 bonds.

Fielder and Culp will remain on the job at the county jail during the legal process after serving a suspension earlier this year.

"Their actions around the time of the death were policy violations in our mind," Hooper said. "So they were disciplined, retrained, and put back to work."

The sheriff linked an internal investigation into Johnson's death to Fielder and Culp's arrests.

"The Texas Ranger found some problems with the way that the jailers handled the investigation," he said. "He presented those to the grand jury and the grand jury came back with a couple of indictments."

Hooper didn't go into detail about the indictment against Zapata, but he did discuss the former jailer's job status with the county.

"The third correctional officer -- ex-correctional officer -- he resigned in lieu of termination back in January of this year as the result of our internal investigation," he said.