The Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) fired 32 prison guards who had been placed on paid leave amid accusations of corruption or abusing prisoners, the Miami Herald reported Friday night.
“I’ve made it clear that there is zero tolerance for corruption or abuse,” the department’s head, state Secretary Michael Crews, said in a statement. “We continue to root out any and all bad actors who do not live up to our expectations.”
Eighteen of the corrections officers fired on Friday had been suspended in connection with the death of 55-year-old Matthew Walker this past April. Walker was allegedly beaten to death while handcuffed in his cell at Charlotte Correctional Institution for refusing to cooperate with officers’ demands. The department called Walker’s death an “inappropriate use of force.”
Officials with the Teamsters Union, which represents the officers, called Crews’ mass firing a “Friday night massacre” that violated the officers’ right to due process and allowed supervisors to escape accountability for policies they put in place.
“The procedure they were following in Charlotte was well known and condoned by the warden,” Teamsters spokesperson Bill Curtis told the Herald. “Essentially they promoted the people most responsible and liable for the incident and fired everybody else down the chain.”
The Panama City News-Herald reported that the officers received a letter from Crews saying they were fired because they “participated in a force incident that resulted in the death of an inmate.” None of the officers terminated on Friday had been arrested or charged.
Another one of the officers, Rollin Suttle Austin, is the subject of an upcoming investigative report by the Herald concerning his alleged connection to the death of 27-year-old Randall Jordan-Aparo inside Franklin Correctional Facility in September 2010.
Austin allegedly ordered that Jordan-Aparo be gassed when the inmate asked to be taken to a hospital to treat a blood disorder. Instead, Jordan-Aparo died five hours after multiple gassing. His body was found covered in “yellow residue.”
According to the Herald, DOC investigators visiting Franklin on a separate matter discovered what happened to Jordan-Aparo and called it “sadistic, retaliatory” behavior by the guards. Their assessment ran counter to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement probe saying that the gassing did not cause Jordan-Aparo’s death. However, their supervisor, Inspector General Jeffery Beasley, allegedly said he would “have their asses” if they continued looking into the incident.