The family of a Kenyan-born man who committed suicide while in the custody of the police at DFW International Airport in Dallas, Texas in November, 2018 has sued the airport over his death.
43-year-old Waweru Mwaura was traveling to Kenya on November 30th, 2018, when he was arrested over the offense of driving while impaired (DWI).
Mwaura hanged himself with his jeans hours after he was booked into a cell at the airport. His death was confirmed to be suicide by the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.
His family filed a lawsuit against the airport in December last year, saying officials could have done more to stop him from committing suicide. DFW Airport Board, the airport’s Department of Public Safety, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and several law enforcement employees at the airport are listed as respondents in the wrongful-death lawsuit.
The family accuses the respondents of negligence while their kin was in their custody. “They [the family] need to get answers as soon as they can so they can truly grieve in a manner that they feel is appropriate for them,” Justin Moore, Mwaura family’s lawyer said.
Mwaura was reportedly booked into jail at 11:45 am and was still alive when an officer checked his cell at 2:51 pm. At 3:54 pm, he was found hanging by his jeans by an officer.
He is said to have made several calls while in custody before taking his life. This included a 20-minute call in which he told someone that he “was not OK and would be in jail for a long time.”
In court documents, the family argues that officials failed to adequately monitor Mwaura’s cell before his death, citing the Texas Administrative Code which mandates face-to-face observation of an inmate every hour - or every half-hour in circumstances where the prisoner is potentially suicidal.
“The family isn’t alleging foul play by officials but wants to obtain evidence such as surveillance footage to reveal the truth,” Moore said.
“I think there needs to be an honest retelling of when the person who was checking on him actually checked on him, and that needs to be reflected by surveillance camera footage,” Moore said. “And until we see that, I think there’s going to be a major transparency issue from this airport.”
Mwaura, who initially moved to the US for studies, got married in Texas but later divorced. Her former mother-in-law later told police that Mwaura was previously suicidal because of the divorce and was going back to Kenya for a fresh start.