A Dallas County Jail officer has died of COVID-19. His wife says the county is letting them down.
Damon Finney’s wife knew he was sick when they went on their honeymoon on July 27, but she didn’t imagine it was coronavirus and didn’t expect it to be kill him. Another bitter surprise was the response to his death from his employer, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office.
âHe didn’t want to bother sitting around the room and trying to improve,â said Tiffany Touissant, his wife. âHe wanted us to go out and enjoy the moment, and he kept saying, ‘I want to make sure you have fun. “”
For months before they left for Las Vegas, Finney, then 50, had worked frequent overtime at the Dallas County Jail, in accordance with the mandatory 16-hour shifts his senior officers had imposed during the pandemic while the number of detention officers decreased.
Finney, a 15-year veteran prison officer at the prison, was also determined to save enough to buy a house with Touissant after their marriage. He saw the mandatory shifts and the many overtime hours they presented as an opportunity to move towards that goal, Touissant said.
âHe had asthma and he was terrified. Because we did the research. We knew, you know, that there are certain diseases that increase the chances of making COVID-19 worse, âTouissant said. “But he kept pushing himself to keep going, to keep going.”
Touissant and Finney met when they both worked as custodial officers at the Dallas County Jail in 2010. Touissant left the jail for a corporate security gig in North Dallas in 2012, but has remained close. by Finney. They would play pool on the weekends or watch new movies at the cinema.
âHe was a horror guy,â Touissant said with a laugh. âI never got into it. But before our honeymoon he loved seeing the new one so much Halloween movie, I said OK, and that was going to be our thing.
In 2013, Finney and Touissant were dating. That year, they moved into a three-bedroom apartment in Arlington with Touissant’s two children. When they could both take a weekend off, they loved playing together at Winstar Casino. They continued on this path, plotting for a home of their own, for years. For her children, Finney has become “the best father figure I could have asked for,” said Touissant.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit Texas in early 2020, Touissant and Finney were made essential workers. Both were only too well aware of the risks of Finney’s job.
In a few months, Texas prisons had become one of the nation’s worst coronavirus hotspots. Finney continued to work, however.
The couple decided to tie the knot on July 9. Soon after, Finney began to fall ill. âHe had bronchitis about twice a year, because of his asthma,â Touissant said. “So we were hoping that was what was happening.”
Finney was clearly ill days before the newlyweds left for Las Vegas in July, Touissant said.
They returned to Arlington on August 4. Days later, Finney tested positive for COVID-19. He died of complications from the virus on August 14, 2021.
On June 14, two months before Finney’s death, Texas lawmakers passed a law adding detention officers like Finney (and their families) to the list of emergency responders eligible for special benefits if they were injured. or killed “in the performance of their duties”. ”
The Texas Senate looked into a follow-up bill six days later, saying “injury or death from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV-2) or coronavirus disease 2019 ( COVID-19) is work-related for some first responders. This includes detention officers, detention officers, firefighters, peace officers and emergency medical technicians.
Benefits for the families of people killed by COVID-19 in the course of their duties are included in the bill.
For 48 days after his death, Damon Finney remained at the Laurel Land Funeral Home in Arlington, Texas.
During the first weeks after her husband’s death, Touissant was fighting COVID-19 herself. She filed a claim for financial compensation as the wife of an officer killed in the line of duty on September 8 with the Dallas County Department of Human Resources.
Days later Ricky Patridge, the Dallas County risk manager, called her back, she said.
“I was hurt. I expected the sheriff to intervene, you know, even just a little while. My husband worked there for 15 years. He was not respected. He deserved better than that. -Tiffany Touching
âHe said, ‘Don’t worry, we consider your husband’s death to have occurred in the line of duty,â Touissant remembers.
Partridge did not respond to the Observerrequest for confirmation of this exchange.
Reassured, Touissant waited and grieved. But the days turned into weeks, “and Ricky never called back, never let me know what was going on,” she said.
Finally, more than 40 days after Finney’s death, Laurel Land Funeral Home in Arlington decided to pay for Finney’s funeral services and the cost of her burial through a program for the families of deceased officers run by their parent company.
At Finney’s funeral on October 1, only one chef, a few sergeants and a small team of fellow Finney detention officers showed up.
The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office General Orders state that “any employee of the Dallas Sheriff’s Department …. Killed in the line of duty, will receive full service with honors,” which includes casket guards of the department, a detail of federal and state law enforcement officials standing guard, as well as other ceremonial staff honoring the deceased officer.
There were no casket keepers, no multi-agency police, no bagpipes or bugles at Damon Finney’s funeral. Dallas County Sheriff Marian Brown was not present.
Brown faces an ongoing federal lawsuit by jailers and inmates at the Dallas County Jail that alleges unconstitutional levels of negligence in his handling of COVID-19 inside the prison.
Brown’s office did not respond to the Observerrequests for comments.
Meanwhile, it has now been 72 days since Touissant filed a claim with the Dallas County Department of Human Resources.
âI was hurt. I expected the sheriff to intervene, you know, even just a little,â Touissant said. âMy husband worked there for 15 years. He was not respected. He was not respected. deserved better than that.