South Florida prison guards charged with murder in beating death of 60-year-old inmate

Three correctional officers in South Florida were arrested and charged with murder in the death of an elderly inmate who was reportedly so badly beaten he died from a punctured lung and internal bleeding from the injuries, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.

In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, authorities described how the three guards, who were tasked with transferring the inmate from a mental health unit to a north Florida prison on 14 February, began beating the man senselessly after the 60-year-old reportedly threw urine at one of the officers.

Following this, the group reportedly handcuffed the man and began to beat him to the point that the department said he needed to be “carried to the transport van”.

Once inside the van, which the department said in their statement was a “secure compartment by himself”, the group began the 290-mile drive from the Dade Correctional Institution to Lake Correctional Institution, where the inmate was supposed to be transferred on that February day.

Part way through the more than 4-hour drive, the group stopped to take a break at the Florida Women’s Reception Center in Ocala, located more than 300 miles northwest of the Dade correctional facility, the department said. There they discovered the man’s lifeless body laid out on a bench inside the van.

“Staff misconduct, abuse or criminal behaviour have no place in Florida’s correctional system,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle in a statement. “Individuals who are sentenced to incarceration by our criminal courts have lost their freedom but no their basic rights.”

A medical examiner later determined that the inmate, who was identified by The Miami Herald as Ronald Gene Ingram, had died after suffering a punctured lung that then led to internal bleeding.

The correctional officers, Christopher Rolon, 29, Kirk Walton, 34, and Ronald Connor, 24, all face charges of second-degree murder, conspiracy, aggravated battery of an elderly adult and cruel treatment of a detainee.

All three men are being held without bail and the department said they are still looking for a fourth officer suspected of being involved in the fatal beating.

“What happened in this case is completely unacceptable and is not a representation of our system,” Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon said in the statement. “The staff involved in this case failed, and as an agency we will not stand for this.”

The investigation into the brutal beating was commissioned by agents from Jacksonville and Miami within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who reportedly conducted 45 interviews and wrote 77 investigation reports, logging more than 1,700 hours of work, in the two-and-a-half-month audit.

The arrest warrants for the accused men remained sealed as of Thursday evening, the Miami Herald reported, and it has not been disclosed if they’d retained defence attorneys.

“Inmates should not be subject to forms of ‘back alley’ justice which are actions in violation of Florida law,” the state attorney continued in the statement. She’s expected to hold a press conference into the case on Friday afternoon at the state attorney’s office.

The Independent reached out to the Miami-Dade Corrections for comment on the charges against the correctional officers.

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