Three Florida prison guards were arrested Thursday and charged with murder in the fatal Valentine’s Day beating of a handcuffed 60-year-old inmate who had thrown urine at one of the correctional officers, state officials announced.
According to a statement from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the guards were removing the inmate from a cell in the mental health unit of a Miami-Dade County prison on Feb. 14 to transfer him to a north Florida prison.
The correctional officers were identified as Ronald Connor, 24, Christopher Rolon, 29, and Kirk Walton, 34.
After the inmate — identified by Miami Herald as convicted murderer Ronald Gene Ingram — doused the officer with his own urine, they handcuffed him and proceeded to pummel him, 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.
Ingram, who was not named in the statement, was placed alone in what authorities described as a secure compartment inside the van.
The van made a stop along the way and that was when the prisoner was found dead, laying on a bench inside the vehicle, the statement added.
A medical examiner said the death was caused by a punctured lung that led to internal bleeding. Ingram also had bruises on his face and torso “consistent with a beating.”
“Staff misconduct, abuse or criminal behavior have no place in Florida’s correctional system,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a prepared statement following the guards’ arrests. “Individuals who are sentenced to incarceration by our criminal courts have lost their freedom but not their basic rights. Inmates should not be subject to forms of ‘back alley’ justice which are actions in violation of Florida law.”
Florida Department of Corrections records indicate that Ingram had been serving a life sentence on a first-degree murder conviction in 1986.
Rolon, Walton and Connor are each charged with second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated elder abuse and use of force. Walton faces an additional count of petit theft.
All were being held without bail in the Miami-Dade County jail Friday.
Authorities said they are searching for a fourth officer involved in the case. They didn’t disclose his identity.
“What happened in this case is completely unacceptable and is not a representation of our system, or of Dade Correctional Institution as a whole,” Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Ricky Dixon said. “The staff involved in this case failed, and as an agency we will not stand for this.”
With Post Wires