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It's been a year since Daniel Taylor died in JSO custody, and the investigation goes on

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Taylor family
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Daniel Taylor in a family photo with sisters NaTasha, top left, and Noel, bottom right, along with mother Colleen and dog Mojo.

On Aug. 13, 2021, Daniel Taylor became unresponsive at the Duval County jail after an altercation with corrections officers that led to him being forcibly sedated. The 30-year-old Jacksonville native, who had been picked up for misdemeanor trespassing and was set to be released later that day, died a week later at UF Health Jacksonville.

A year on, his family is still waiting for the investigation into his death by the State Attorney's Office to conclude. JSO and two medical examiners have submitted reports in the case, leaving it to the prosecutor to make the final call.

NaTasha Taylor, Daniel's sister, says their family plans to meet with the State Attorney's Office at the end of the month, which they hope will finally lead to answers in his death.

"I don't know if we'll ever have closure," she said. "But at least we know there's at least some kind of an end date, as far as just waiting and wondering what's going to happen and if my brother's going to get justice."

A family's frustration

Throughout the investigation, Taylor's sister says her family has been surprised by what they consider a lack of information from JSO.

"They never reached out to us with any updates whatsoever. It was basically me reaching out to them on a weekly or biweekly basis to get more updates about my brother," she said. "Even when JSO concluded their case I asked, 'Can you give me any information?' and they said, 'No.'"

She says the State Attorney's Office, in contrast, gave the family a rundown of the facts of the case, including reasons for the length of the investigation, which she declined to discuss before the family's meeting with prosecutors.

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Taylor family
Daniel Taylor

Overall, the case has shaken the family's faith in the system.

"I know it's going to happen to another family, and I hate knowing that," NaTasha Taylor said. "But for families that do have to go through this, push, push, push, push on the investigators to give you answers to make sure that you're staying in the loop.

"Also, get a lawyer right away," she said.

JSO did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An investigation timeline

After Taylor was transferred to the hospital, detectives from JSO arrived at the jail to obtain video footage of the incident and interview witnesses. An incident report filed by those detectives boiled it down to two lines: "Officers became involved in a physical altercation with an inmate. The inmate became unresponsive."

While JSO policy requires a report in cases where officers use force, the Sheriff's Office said no such report exists for the jailhouse incident. Those reports usually document specific actions taken by each party in the incident, what injuries occurred, and the identities or anonymous descriptions of the officers involved.

An arrest report, filed for Taylor while he lay in a coma at the hospital after the jailhouse fight, listed three corrections officers as victims, one of whom reported that Taylor bit him on the hand.

An eyewitness, as well as a report from Jacksonville Fire and Rescue EMTs, described 10 officers being involved in subduing Taylor.

An EMS report, signed three days after Taylor was initially hospitalized, says he stopped breathing after being sedated with the department's maximum dosage of ketamine, much higher than the limit prescribed for his weight in Fire Rescue policy.

Immediately after Daniel's death, JSO told at least one news outlet — WJCT News partner News4Jax — that his wounds had been self-inflicted.

Taylor was taken off life support on Aug. 20. An autopsy report nearly four months later concluded that Taylor's death was a "homicide" caused by lack of oxygen to the brain after his heart stopped working "following a violent physical altercation."

Prosecutors requested a second report in early 2022 — this one from the medical examiner for Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties — because of the complex medical evidence in the case.

That additional report is not yet publicly available, though NaTasha Taylor says investigators informed her that the findings conflicted with those provided by the Duval coroner.

JSO detectives, assigned to look into the incident that occurred in their custody, concluded their investigation in June and submitted a final report to the State Attorney's Office.

Reporter Raymon Troncoso joined WJCT News in June of 2021 after concluding his fellowship with Report For America, where he was embedded with Capitol News Illinois covering Illinois state government with a focus on policy and equity. You can reach him at (904) 358-6319 or Rtroncoso@wjct.org and follow him on Twitter @RayTroncoso.