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Bodycam footage reveals how Fort Worth police's critical misspelling on document kept hospital from finding inmate's records

Kelly Masten has been in the ICU for eight weeks, recovering from seizures at the Tarrant County Detention Center. Her family says she should've received treatment.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Kelly Masten is in her eighth week at the ICU at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth — but her family says she shouldn’t have ended up there are all, and new body camera footage obtained by WFAA reveals how police officers' critical misspelling on a document may have started Masten's path there in the first place.

"There were several days where we thought we were going to lose her," says Masten's sister, Kristina Salinas. "That’s kind of what was being relayed to us — so, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least."

Masten suffers from a rare epilepsy disorder called Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, which leads to her suffering from seizures one to three times per day. Her family also says the 38-year-old has the mental capacity of a 5 year old.

On April 11, Masten's grandmother called 911 after Masten bit her. WFAA obtained body camera video of her ensuing arrest for assault-bodily injury through an open records request. That footage shows the concern Masten’s family had for how Masten would be treated in jail, and how they'd further expressed hope that she’d be taken to the hospital’s mental health unit.

"My main thing is her being scared, frightened, not knowing what’s going on," her mother is heard saying in that footage.

The video also features police assuring the family how Masten would only be at the jail for a matter of hours.

"Will someone be around her?" her grandmother can be heard asking on the video. 

"Yes, at all times," an officer answers. "There’s 1,000 cameras down there."

From April 11 to April 21, though, Masten was behind bars in jail and not in the hospital unit. Her family says she continued to seize in the cement jail, injuring herself in the process. 

On April 13, her family says, jailers eventually took Masten to JPS Hospital to be treated for her injuries —  but medical records indicating that she has severe seizures were never found.

Her family says that's because her name had been spelled "Maston" instead of "Masten" on police documents.

"That’s initially what started her being here in ICU for eight weeks, just the simple misspelling of her name," Salinas says.

The body camera footage shows that Masten’s family spelled her last name correctly two different times to police, and that they even corrected an officer who said her name was "Masterson" at one point.

In a statement Wednesday, police admitted they got Masten's name wrong.

"The arresting officer did misspell Ms. Masten's name," the statement read. "However, the officer documented Ms. Masten’s medical conditions on the jail intake paperwork when he took Ms. Masten to the FWPD jail. Due to the Medical Texas Privacy Act we are unable to elaborate further on the medical conditions.”

The Tarrant County Detention Center said in a previous statement that the name and birthday they used were what was given to them in a police report.

Even though Masten’s neurologist works at JPS Hospital, her records and her need for treatment could not be found because of the wrong name listed on her paperwork.

“She was treated for the injuries that she had, that they could see — and sent back to Tarrant County jail," Salinas says.

For eight more days after that first hospital visit, Masten continued to seize and injure herself in her jail cell, according to her family. She was not moved to the jail’s medical floor until April 19. 

The Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department says Masten was checked on 20 times during her jail stint, but added that policy prevents them from forcing someone to take medicine.

"She doesn’t have the mental competence to explain in words," Salinas says. "So we’ll never know, but the emotional and physical pain that she must’ve went through for all of those days and had no one to help..." 

Photos taken by the family at JPS Hospital show Masten's arms, legs and face severely bruised and cut. Salinas says the entire system failed her sister, and denied her civil rights to both health and safety.

“Why was Kelly only taken to the hospital one time, when it was very obvious just from looking at her physically that there was something seriously wrong?” Salinas asks.

In the roughly one hour and 45 minutes of video WFAA obtained, there are 61 redactions totaling about 30 minutes of muted video. Despite requests over the past two weeks, police have so far not explained the reasons for the redactions, or why they are permitted under open records law.

Salinas and her family have also requested records from Fort Worth and Tarrant County, and they say they’ve been told that both are asking the state attorney general’s office for an opinion, which will likely delay getting the records for around 45 days — if they receive them at all.

The video includes a segment where family members ask to be informed of when Masten is released from jail. Salinas says the family was given a time range on when she might get out on April 21 after they were able to post her bond. She and her husband stayed out in front of the jail on that day, and made repeated checks inside, but weren’t told Masten had been taken out a back entrance and transported to JPS Hospital until an hour and a half after she’d arrived.

"Common sense should’ve taken place," Salinas says. "Someone, somewhere, whether it was a jailer or the staff, should’ve said 'Hey, we’re doing everything according to policy or procedure, but it’s not working,'" Salinas says.

The Tarrant County District Attorney’s office has since dropped the charge against Masten. Her family says that her condition is improving too, that she is now working towards breathing and eating on her own. 

Their focus now is squarely on Masten's recovery and fixing what went wrong in the system that brought her to this point.

"To try to get these policies and procedures changed so that no one with a mental disability ever has to go through this again," Salinas says of her goal.

But it's not just those with mental health issues who have struggled in Tarrant County custody in recent years. In three years — from 2016 through 2018 — the Tarrant County Detention Center recorded just three in-custody deaths, but that number spiked from to 36 deaths from 2019 through 2021, according to data obtained from an open records request.

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