Correctional officer at Abilene Middleton Unit dies of COVID-19

Laura Gutschke


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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced Wednesday that a correctional officer at the Middleton Unit north of Abilene has died of the coronavirus COVID-19.

James Coleman, 53, felt ill at home Monday, collapsed and was taken to a hospital, where he was tested for COVID-19, according to a TDJC news release. The test returned positive.

Coleman died Tuesday, the release said.

James Coleman (Photo: Courtesy photo)

The 20-year veteran of TDCJ last worked Sunday at the Middleton Unit. The death is under investigation. 

“The thoughts and prayers of the TDCJ family are with those close to Officer Coleman. We can only hope that is of some comfort to his friends and family,” TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier said in the release.

TDCJ reported Tuesday that 33 offenders at the Middleton and Robertson units have tested positive for the coronavirus COVID-19.

In addition, eight employees – six at Robertson and two at Middleton – have contracted the disease, and an additional 75 prisoners are in medical isolation. 

Medical isolation is used to separate ill persons who have a communicable disease from those who are healthy to help stop the spread of disease, TDCJ said. 

More: COVID-19: New York Times lists Abilene among cities where outbreak might happen next

At Robertson, 20 offenders have tested positive, and additional 33 are in medical isolation. At Middleton, 13 offenders are being treated for the illness, and another 42 are in medical isolation. 

COVID-19 tests are pending on 29 Middleton and 13 Robertson prisoners.

As of Tuesday, the Abilene Taylor County Health District reported 277 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county, with three deaths, four hospitalized, 189 self-isolating and 81 recovered.

More: Coronavirus COVID-19: Updates on cases in Abilene, the Big Country


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From the original news release:

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is grieving the loss of an employee that may be connected to the COVID-19 virus.

53-year-old Correctional Officer James Coleman’s death is currently under investigation. Coleman last worked April 26, 2020 at the Middleton Unit in Abilene. On April 27TH, he felt ill at home, collapsed and was taken to a local hospital where he was tested for COVID-19. That test did return positive and Officer Coleman passed away yesterday afternoon. He was a 20-year veteran of TDCJ.

“There is no measure of the unexpected loss of someone we hold dear,” said Bryan Collier Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. “The thoughts and prayers of the TDCJ family are with those close to Officer Coleman. We can only hope that is of some comfort to his friends and family.”

Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News.  If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to 

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