Miami-Dade police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were investigating the death of an inmate at Dade Correctional Institution on Thursday — the same day state prisons secretary Michael Crews announced the suspension of the prison warden.
Warden Jerry Cummings was placed on administrative leave amid a firestorm over the 2010 death of a mentally ill inmate whose body was found two hours after guards placed him in a scalding shower, allegedly as punishment for defecating in his cell.
In a news release on Friday, Crews denounced Cummings and his deputy warden, Royce Dykes, for concealing details of Thursday’s prison death, which he said occurred in the prison’s infirmary.
“It is astonishing that the same day I was visiting Dade Correctional another inmate was reported dead,” Crews said in the release.
It was unclear what information prison officials failed to provide or misled authorities about. An email to Crews’ office, asking for clarification, went unanswered Friday night.
Crews said that Dykes retired Friday.
Thursday’s death at DCI brings the total inmate deaths under active investigation at Florida prisons to 12.
Among them is the death of Darren Rainey, a Tampa native who was serving two years on a drug possession charge. Rainey died in June 2012 and the investigation had inexplicably languished for years.
Until the Miami Herald began writing about Rainey’s death and allegations of inmate abuse at the prison in May, neither DOC nor Miami-Dade police had interviewed key witnesses who claimed that they saw Rainey placed in the shower and heard him scream for help. The corrections officers allegedly taunted him by asking him whether the shower was hot enough and, afterward, dragged his body to the infirmary, leaving chunks of his skin behind.
It’s not clear whether Miami-Dade police ever checked the shower, the water temperature, whether they took photographs, collected video surveillance footage or conducted any interviews the night of his death.
They did not save the 911 recording, an indicator that the death was not treated as a homicide. Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Bruce Hyma still has not released Rainey’s autopsy.
However, Hyma’s office was able to tell DOC officials on Friday that the inmate who died a day earlier apparently died of natural causes, Crews said in the release on Friday night. Neither DOC nor FDLE released the name of the inmate.
Under intense pressure as a result of news reports, Crews also was hit with the news this week that four veteran investigators in his inspector general’s office are suing the state, claiming that they have been retaliated against for questioning an earlier inquiry into the death of an inmate who died at Franklin Correctional Institution four years ago.
The death of inmate Randall Jordan-Aparo, 27, initially was ruled the result of complications from a rare blood disorder. But the investigators stumbled upon evidence that corrections officers had thrown him in solitary confinement and repeatedly gassed him until he died.
Jordan-Aparo was serving an 18-month term for check fraud.