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'Like she was less than a human': Family reacts to treatment of woman in Dallas police custody before overdose death

Diamond S. Ross, 34, was arrested by Dallas police on Aug. 18, 2018. She died of an accidental drug overdose while in custody.

DALLAS — Updated at 5:23 p.m. with additional information from police records and statements.

Dallas police have released body camera, dashboard camera and security camera footage of the arrest of a woman who died from an accidental drug overdose while in police custody last year.

Diamond S. Ross, 34, was arrested after police were called to a disturbance in August 2018, said Nicole Walton, a spokeswoman with Dallas police in a statement Thursday. 

Call records show officers initially responded to the house after a man reported a domestic violence situation.

A state custodial death report says officers responded to the disturbance around 5:40 a.m. Aug. 18, 2018, at a house in the 1400 block of Exeter Avenue. Ross appeared to be intoxicated.

The report states that Ross "was combative with officers" and "placed under arrest." Paramedics cleared Ross to be transported to the city jail, where she was booked in on warrants, the report shows.

Walton said a background check found Ross had outstanding misdemeanor warrants, which led to her arrest. 

Ross was pronounced dead 24 hours after she was taken into custody, the custodial death report shows. 

WFAA first requested the footage and documents related to Ross' death four months ago. The Dallas Police Department released some videos to WFAA after 5 p.m. Wednesday and then posted the videos online in "an effort to be transparent." 

Dallas police officials said say Ross's family was notified about the videos before they were released. 

Relatives told WFAA they saw the videos this week. 

“I spent a whole year not knowing anything,” Diamond’s mom Ethelyn Ross said. “Nobody came to me, talked to me, nothing.”

And now that she has seen what happened to her daughter, it is hard to comprehend.

“I was crushed. My heart was crushed,” Ethelyn Ross said. “To watch that, it was hurtful.”

The custodial death report states "Ross had a medical emergency" while she was booked in at the city jail and paramedics transported her to the hospital. 

But in one of the videos released by the Dallas Police Department, an unresponsive Ross was dragged into the detention facility. Her hands are cuffed behind her back and she's slumped over as the officers pull her face-first into a cell. 

They put her down facedown before flipping over. They then bring a wheelchair into the cell. They put a seemingly-unresponsive Ross, with her hands still cuffed behind her back, into the wheelchair. Her head lolls back. 

Ross is left alone in the cell for at least six minutes before anyone checks on her. A gloved jail employee appears to rub Ross's sternum. An officer later lifts up the handcuffed woman's head before it falls back off the wheelchair again. 

Ross remains slumped in the wheelchair in the middle of a room while officers bring in another handcuffed man. 

Paramedics arrive about 12 minutes after the video begins. 

Ross is still handcuffed when paramedics put her on the floor and start performing chest compressions. 

Kia-Tenai Thomas said she struggled to watch as police dragged her aunt into a cell and placed her into a wheelchair.

“See the way she’s being carried in, see how her head is just laying there like that,” Thomas said as she watched the video Thursday. “Now watch how they put her in this wheelchair. You see that, you see the way they just plopped her down in that chair. That’s disrespectful. You could have held her neck while she was plopped down in there because she could have broken her neck right then and there.”

Diamond’s mom said her daughter was struggling at the point she overdosed, but she expects more from the police.

“Nobody should be treated like that. Nobody,” Ethelyn Ross said. “She wasn’t no threat to them.”

Ross was pronounced dead at 7:18 a.m. Aug. 19, 2018, according to the custodial death report.

Ross's case was investigated by the department's special investigations unit and internal affairs unit and found that the arresting officer didn't buckle Ross in with a seatbelt and failed to get Ross medical attention when it became clear she was unresponsive. That officer, who was not publicly named, was disciplined for his actions, officials said.

After reviewing the footage and all other evidence, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office declined to pursue any criminal charges because the Dallas County Medical Examiner ruled Ross's death an accident, according to the police statement. 

"The department’s sympathy is with the family over the loss of their loved one. It is never easy to lose someone unexpectedly," police wrote in a statement Wednesday night. "The Dallas Police Department is committed to ensuring excellence during its delivery of service by holding members of our department accountable."

Videos from Dallas police are below. WARNING: Graphic content.

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