Four Florida correctional officers were arrested and charged with murder in the fatal beating of a handcuffed prisoner who had thrown urine at one of the officers, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced.
The guards were removing the inmate from a cell in the mental health unit of a Miami-Dade County prison on February 14 to transfer him to a north Florida prison. After the inmate threw urine on the officer, they handcuffed him and a beating followed, the department said.
"After the inmate was removed, even though he was in handcuffs and compliant with officer commands, agents say the officers began to beat him. The inmate was beaten so badly he had to be carried to the transport van," the department said in a news release.
The inmate was placed alone in what authorities described as a secure compartment inside the van. CBS Miami identified the victim as 60-year-old Ronald Ingram.
"Individuals who are sentenced to incarceration by our criminal courts have lost their freedom but not their basic rights," Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said. "Inmates should not be subject to forms of 'back alley' justice which are actions in violation of Florida law."
The van made a stop along the way and that was when Ingram was found dead, laying on a bench inside the vehicle, the statement added. A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, saying his death was caused by a punctured lung that led to internal bleeding. Ingram also had bruises on his face and torso.
Authorities said three correctional officers were arrested early Thursday: Christopher Rolon, 29, Kirk Walton, 34, and Ronald Connor, 24. Officer Jeremy Godbolt, 28, was arrested Friday afternoon. Each of the four officers is charged with second-degree murder and aggravated battery on an elderly or disabled person among other offenses.
All were being held without bail, and online jail records didn't list attorneys for the men.
Florida Department of Corrections secretary Ricky Dixon said the department is evaluating staffing and leadership operations at Dade Correctional Institution. Since the inmate's death, the department has removed every person that could have been involved in the incident from the facility and placed them on administrative leave. It has also brought in law enforcement inspectors for every shift, reduced inmate population to temporarily alleviate staffing challenges, and sent each officer to "additional mandatory use of force and ethics training."
"What happened, in this case, is completely unacceptable and is not a representation of our system, or of Dade Correctional Institution as a whole," Dixon said. "The staff involved in this case failed, and as an agency we will not stand for this."
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